Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta is at a loss to explain the team's latest Champions League disappointment.
City's 1-1 draw with Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday condemned them to elimination before the knockout stages for a second successive season. As with last year, City faced a tough group, drawn against the might of Real as well as two other domestic champions in Borussia Dortmund and Ajax.
But with City boasting plenty of world-class talent of their own, Zabaleta is puzzled as to why they have failed to win any of their first five Group D games. The Argentina international said: "It's the second year in a row that this has happened - it's hard to see, when you see the players that we have."
He added: "We are obviously a bit disappointed about the result as we needed three points. It was our last chance to get close enough to Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, and play the last game with an option to go through to the next stage.
"Now, the chance has gone and it's hard to understand. The group was very tough. Borussia Dortmund did very well and maybe Real Madrid were the second best team in the group and that's why we didn't qualify for the next round."
City remain bottom of the group with just three points and will now battle it out with Ajax for a consolation spot in the Europa League. To achieve that they will need to win their final game at Dortmund, who are confirmed as group winners, and hope that Ajax do not beat Real at the Bernabeu.
There is a feeling among some observers that City might now be better served in their quest to retain the Premier League title by being out of Europe altogether. But Zabaleta feels they must make the most of any opportunity to play on the continental stage.
The 27-year-old said: "We expected more. When you see the squad that we have, you want to try to go through to the next round. Now we have a chance to qualify for the Europa League.
"It is always good to play in Europe. That was not our target at the beginning but now we need to go to Germany and beat Borussia Dortmund and wait for the result between Real Madrid and Ajax."
- Sports & Recreation
- Real Madrid
- Pablo Zabaleta
- Borussia Dortmund
- Manchester City