Europe dreams the distraction to City's domestic duty

Manchester City's team celebrate after winning the English Premier League following their soccer match against West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, northern England May 11, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples
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By Stephen Wood (Reuters) - Sooner or later Manchester City will face a problem that Middle East cash cannot solve: how not to become a victim of your own success. Champions of the English game twice in three seasons, City's domestic strength and credentials are well established. What is unclear is how the team will handle a Premier League title run-in when the other coveted trophy - the Champions League - is also at their fingertips. City made tangible progress in Europe's elite competition for the first time last season. They emerged from the group stages and went out to Barcelona in the last 16. Further improvement is expected by the Abu Dhabi United Group, whose huge investment in City has transformed the club and helped push transfer spending to unprecedented levels in the past five years. Of course, those sprees have enabled City to build a squad the envy of most clubs. But when the transfer windows have closed, and Manuel Pellegrini's players are asked to navigate two big games a week throughout March, April and May, there is the chance that foreign adventures will overshadow their homework. It is a scenario City have yet to experience. In 2012, having exited the Champions League at the group stage, they won the English title in haphazard fashion, with almost the final kick of the season. Last season, again untroubled by late-season European commitments, they overcame Liverpool's challenge to seal the domestic championship by two points. With extensive demands ahead, therefore, it is curious that Pellegrini has chosen not to use the transfer market so far this close-season to add to his attacking options. Again, it seems, he will rely on the "big four" of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo and Yaya Toure to lead City's charge - though given that each supplied 20 goals or more last season, it is not a bad production line. As a bonus, Frank Lampard has joined on loan, likely until January, from City's affiliate club New York City, and Stevan Jovetic, the Montengero forward who played only 13 times in the league last season after his 22 million pounds move from Fiorentina, has developed and will be pushing for more opportunities after an impressive pre-season campaign. Pellegrini, however, has been focussing this summer on his defence. While Martin Demichelis recovered from his mid-season slump last term to prove an asset alongside inspirational captain Vincent Kompany, the Argentine is 33 and prone to error. Pellegrini is reported to be interested in Porto's centre-back Eliquim Mangala, and if the deal goes ahead, expect the Frenchman to slot straight into City's back four. Bacary Sagna has been acquired on a free transfer from Arsenal as cover at right-back for Pablo Zabaleta, and the Brazilian-born defensive midfielder Fernando has arrived from Porto. With keeper Joe Hart back to his best after his struggles midway through last season, and Toure restating his commitment to City after stories emerged of his unhappiness, the spine of Pellegrini's powerful, athletic and potent team is protected. It should mean that City are challenging again, likely alongside Chelsea, for the Premier League title next May. And then there is the influence of Pellegrini himself. Dubbed "this charming man" by City fans, in a nod to Manchester band the Smiths, Pellgrini has won the trust and confidence of his players, and provided a welcome change in style following the uneasy reign of Roberto Mancini. After a high turnover of players at the club in the past five years, the Chilean appears to have put stability first and decided that he has what he needs: a nucleus capable of meeting expectations at home while fulfilling dreams abroad. (Writing by Stephen Wood; editing by Justin Palmer)

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