In 1968, in advance of a European Cup first round tie against Turkish Champions Fenerbahce, then Manchester City manager Big Malcolm Allison boasted that his club were going to ‘terrify Europe' (they lost). In November of this year, current Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini, claimed that his side lacked the experience necessary to threaten Europe's top clubs.
How things have changed.
Allison's side, manned by locals like Mike Sumerbee (£35,000 from Swindon), Franny Lee (club record £60,000 from Bolton Wanderers) and Glyn Pardoe (a one-club man whose debut as a sixteen year old still makes him City's youngest league performer), were going to terrify clubs that Mancini's half-billion pound assemblage are too inexperienced to trouble.
Of course, we don't have to believe Mancini. In Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez, he has three Champions League winners in his squad. The coefficient, a dubiously entrenching system is, for that reason, a good measurement of teams' European experience and the only team out of City's group at this stage is Villarreal, the second most experienced. And it is an aggregate defeat to Napoli, officially the group's least experienced side, that has put City into their current predicament: they need to beat (qualified) Bayern Munich at home and they need Napoli to fail to beat (pointless) Villarreal in Spain.
First, then, City are not that inexperienced; second, maybe experience is not that important. As a coda to this, Mancini has yet to use his side's relative inexperience to talk down their Premier League chances.
In any case, experience is cumulative. Manchester City go into Wednesday night's game a more experienced side than that which lost (and lost Tevez) in Munich. A win for City on Wednesday, whatever the result in Spain, is necessary for City as are (should Napoli do the business) a number of wins in the Europa League in the New Year.
Whatever the genuine level of City's current European experience, increasing it will make them a more terrifying prospect whether in this season's Champions League or next.