LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester City are no longer Champions League novices but at the start of their fourth consecutive campaign they still give the appearance of being uncomfortable, impoverished guests at a rich man’s party.
Despite enjoying the full financial support of mega-rich Abu Dhabi owners, City’s expensively assembled squad again appear to have no love, passion or understanding of what it takes to succeed in Europe’s elite competition.
Their fans do not seem too bothered either, with only 37,509 turning up to watch the opening home match of their Group E campaign against AS Roma -- the lowest crowd for a Champions League match at the Etihad Stadium.
That figure is well below their Champions League home average attendance of 43,551 and there was a subdued atmosphere in the ground as the Italians dominated play for long periods.
By drawing 1-1, City again failed to win their opening home match, following draws with Napoli in 2011, Borussia Dortmund in 2012 and a defeat against Bayern Munich last season.
They now have only one point from their opening two matches, as they did in both 2011-12 and 2012-13, and both times they failed to qualify from the group.
Last season, they had three points from their first two games and finished second to reach the last 16, where they were beaten 2-0 at home by Barcelona before losing 2-1 at the Nou Camp.
The statistics do make for surprising reading considering that the team is full of experienced internationals, are coached by Manuel Pellegrini, who reached the semi-finals of the 2006 competition with Villarreal, and boast resources that are the envy of almost every club in the world.
Most pundits are lost for a precise explanation as to why City struggle so badly in the competition, because on paper at least, their players are as technically gifted as most other elite European teams and no one flukes a Premier League title.
Pellegrini admitted afterwards they faced an uphill battle to reach the last 16, while Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho believes they need to approach the Champions League differently.
“We don’t know how difficult it will be to qualify,” he said. “Except that it will be. It depends on how we play the next game.”
Fernandinho told Sky Sports: “The Champions League is different -- you play a lot of big teams with very good technical players and we have to learn to play in the Champions League in a different way.”
City could not even build on a good start to Tuesday’s match which saw them take a 1-0 lead following Sergio Aguero’s fourth minute penalty.
They were soon pegged back when the mercurial Francesco Totti equalised 19 minutes later to become the oldest scorer in Champions League history, three days after his 38th birthday.
It was his 300th career goal and first in 10 matches in England, where he first appeared in a UEFA Cup tie against Leeds United in 1998.
City still have a chance of qualifying with two winnable games against CSKA Moscow up next on Oct. 21 and Nov. 5 before a tough home match against Bayern Munich on Nov. 25 and a final away game at Roma on Dec. 10.
One sobering thought for Pellegrini and his men though, is that of the 232 teams who have had one point or less after two games in the group stage, only 32 have gone on to reach the knockout round.
As Pellegrini admits, they have an uphill battle ahead of them.
Editing by John O'Brien