Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini said today that the unpredictability of football meant that his side are capable of beating Real Madrid to preserve their slender Champions League hopes.
Mancini was not upbeat at his press conference ahead of a game his side must win to avoid group stage elimination and rejected any notion that City could play with freedom because the pressure is off. But the Italian, who said that he will observe Mario Balotelli in training to assess if he can play after a back injury, has not given up all hope. "Football is fantastic because when you play well against [teams like] Real Madrid and Barcelona you can win. You can beat the best teams. It's my opinion that Real Madrid are the best team in the world, with Barcelona. When you play against Real Madrid you play against 11 top players. You have to pay attention to all their players."
Balotelli did not reveal signs of the back injury he sustained on international duty with Italy last week, which caused his omission from City's squad at the weekend. But Mancini, who dropped him 10 days ago because of his poor attitude in training, provided a hint that he may be gradually becoming resigned to the young striker never heeding his requests to buckle down. "Mario outside of the pitch is a fantastic guy," Mancini said. "Sometimes he doesn't understand what the job is and how important the job is for your life.
"I hope for him that he can understand this quickly. Now he is a 22-year-old but your life will go quickly. I hope he will improve. As a player he could be like Cristiano [Ronaldo] or [Lionel] Messi if he understands that... you should work hard. Your mind should always be on your job, not other things that are not important. I'm very sorry for him because of this. It's not easy to work with him every day."
City will also be without Gael Clichy against Jose Mourinho's side. The Frenchman has an ankle injury.