The first week in October is a little early to be talking of must-win games, but in a group of death you never live twice. The shadow of defeat by Real Madrid hung like the rain-laden Mancunian clouds over the marquee in which Roberto Mancini and Yaya Touré were asked to once more pick over the last few chaotic moments in the Bernabeu.
"I don't need to learn," said Mancini when pressed on a managerial record in Europe that, at Internazionale and at Manchester City, is at odds with a CV full of domestic success. "The Champions League is a difficult competition, but the football is the same, the players are the same, it is still 11 versus 11. The problem is that you play the best teams from other countries. Every game is difficult.
"I think the time will come when we can win the Champions League but in this moment we are in a difficult group. Sometimes, when you play in the Champions League, you should be lucky with the draw. It is important for us to get into the second stage because, after that, anything can happen."
The 3-2 defeat in Madrid proved precisely what can happen when focus is lost, however briefly, against one of the big beasts of European football. "With five minutes to go, we were 2-1 ahead and we made some mistakes," said Mancini. "When they scored their second we went too deep and we conceded a lot of space. If you concede space to [Cristiano] Ronaldo and [Karim] Benzema, you are taking risks."
And the City manager added: "If we concede space to Borussia Dortmund, it will be hard.
"We are as good a team as Manchester United and Arsenal. Look how we have improved in the Premier League. I think we need time to improve in the Champions League but we do not have time – we have only five matches and we cannot concede like we did against Real."
There is plenty that links Dortmund and Manchester City. Both have supporters of rare passion, both have broken out of the shadow cast by rivals with more glamour and financial clout – Dortmund not only beat Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga title, they retained it.
Like City, though, they are yet to cut it in the Champions League and many among Jürgen Klopp's squad seemed not too confident of a good result on the pitch they trained on last night. This is a team of wonderful flair but it is also young and potentially brittle, and the captain, Sebastian Kehl, has talked of having to stand strong in the face of City's potentially "brutal attacks".
Some of Klopp's players were in the Germany squad that lost in the Euros. If the ghost of Madrid still haunts City, then the echoes of Warsaw's National Stadium may still follow Hummels, Götze and Reus.Reuse content