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First England, next Europe for ambitious Man City

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 11, 2014 at 8:16 am •  Published: August 11, 2014

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City reclaimed its position as the top team in English football by winning the Premier League and the League Cup last season.

Next in the firing line for the club's ambitious Abu Dhabi owners: Conquering Europe.

In its three years in the Champions League, City twice has failed to get out of the group stage and last year was eliminated by Barcelona in the last 16.

That's a poor return for one of the world's wealthiest clubs and for a team crammed with talent in every department.

"We won the league two times in three years and finished second. We won the FA Cup, (League) Cup — we have won everything in England," City playmaker Samir Nasri said. "Now we have to see the bigger picture and try to do something in the Champions League.

"With the players we have, that is what we need to do. Everyone has to be ambitious."

Winning the Premier League, it appears, is the minimum requirement at Etihad Stadium nowadays. But neither of City's recent championship successes have come easy.

In 2012, City scored twice in injury time to win its final match and beat great rival Manchester United to the title on goal difference. And last year, City won its last five matches to overhaul Liverpool in a title race that again went down to the last weekend.

City never has done things the easy way and it seems that's not about to change even in the era of the Sheikh Mansour regime, when more than $1 billion has been spent on the first team since 2008.

The club appears to have learned its lessons from 2012, when it relaxed after ending a 44-year wait for an English league title and failed to make the kind of signings that could have led to a period of prolonged domestic dominance.

This time around, bound by a transfer spending cap of 60 million euros ($80 million) for breaching UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations, they have bought wisely and strengthened areas where they were short last season — namely in defense and central midfield.

Willy Caballero arrived from Malaga and is pushing first-choice goalkeeper Joe Hart, while Bacary Sagna gives Pellegrini a strong option as an alternative right back to fans' favorite Pablo Zabaleta after joining from Arsenal as a free agent. On Monday, France center back Eliaquim Mangala — a long-term target — joined from FC Porto for a reported 32 million pounds ($54 million), easily the club's most expensive acquisition of the offseason.

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