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Premier League 2019/20: Brighton vs Manchester City - tactical analysis tactics

CAS verdict allows Manchester City to breathe a sigh of relief

Manchester City will be playing in next season’s UEFA Champions League, after all. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), based in Switzerland, overturned UEFA’s two-season ban on City for alleged breaches of the governing body’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules on Monday, and reduced the fine that the club has to pay to €10 million from the original €30 million.

This decision is set to have huge ramifications across European football, not just for Manchester City alone. The CAS judgement means that the club are likely to push on with significant rebuilding plans in the summer, with manager Pep Guardiola reportedly being given a £150 million transfer kitty to bolster his squad so that they can pose a bigger challenge to Liverpool next season. City are almost certainly going to try and sign a top-quality centre-back, as most of their issues this season can be traced back to their defensive issues, while they may also be looking for a striker, given that Sergio Agüero’s contract expires next season, and he has spoken about wanting to finish his career back in his native Argentina. Left-back is another priority position, and the club have Bayern Munich‘s David Alaba, who can play at both centre-back and left-back, as one of their prime targets. Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly is another name who is supposed to be high on the list of potential defensive recruits, but none of these players will come cheap, which makes the revocation of City’s ban extremely important, as it guarantees Champions League revenue for the club. This is vital in the current climate, where matchday income is set to plummet for all clubs due to the ongoing pandemic and the absence of fans from stadiums.

The verdict is set to shake up UEFA’s FFP regime as well, as this is now the third time where they have failed to punish a club for supposed breaches of their regulations. While City got off on a technicality for the most part, with CAS stating that most of the alleged breaches were ‘time-barred’ i.e. they occurred more than five years ago, which is the length of UEFA’s statute of limitations for FFP breaches, they were still fined for obstructing UEFA’s investigation and not co-operating with the governing body. The main allegation, that City overstated its sponsorship revenue between 2012 and 2016 in its accounts submitted to UEFA, and that the club had disguised funding from its owners as independent sponsorships from Abu Dhabi-based companies, was held to have not been established. Therefore, this will be a body blow to the legitimacy of the FFP regime, as clubs have seen that they can get away with breaches.

City, who are playing Real Madrid in the second leg of their round-of-16 tie in this season’s Champions League, will undoubtedly be back as one of the soccer betting favourites for next season’s tournament, and have a decent chance to win it this time as well, holding a 2-1 advantage over Madrid from the first leg. The rest of this season’s Champions League will be held over two weeks in Lisbon, with the remaining knockout ties being single matches rather than in the usual home-and-away format, and it would be quite the statement if City go on to win UEFA’s premier club competition now, following this exoneration by CAS.