Roberto Mancini's Manchester City face test of real progress at Bernabeu against Real Madrid

'We can win the Champions League' says City manager – but won't predict when

Madrid

At the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, they advertise a "tour of trophies" because they are the kind of club who have a collection of silverware so extensive that you need to physically walk around it. Nine European Cups, 32 league titles, 18 Spanish Cups, the list goes on – they cannot be fully appreciated by a glance or squeezed into one cabinet or caught in a single camera frame. At Real Madrid, to comprehend the club's success, one requires a tour.

This is the company to which Manchester City – three league titles, five FA Cups, one Cup Winners' Cup – aspire and for Roberto Mancini's team it is no longer simply good enough to share the stage with the biggest clubs in Europe, it is time that they competed with them.

As a start to City's second Champions League campaign, their first as champions of England under Sheikh Mansour's ownership, tonight's opener against Real represents a wonderful opportunity to test their progress. Even if they are defeated there is scope to remedy their situation, although this game comes with the warning that there are no easy points in Group D.

For Uefa and their stale, revenue-driven Champions League group stage format, which so often fizzles out in terms of interest when the seeded teams take control early on, Group D is a god-send this year. City, Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund are all reigning champions of big football nations and the competition will be fearsome from the very start.

A draw for City tonight would be an excellent way to start the competition. Last season they drew their first game at home to Napoli, lost in Munich to Bayern and as the Carlos Tevez affair erupted they still beat Villarreal home and away before that crucial away defeat to Napoli. Their haul of 10 points was the most a team has ever earned and gone out the competition.

In Manchester United's second season in the Champions League, 1994-1995, they picked up the current equivalent of eight points (it was only two for a win in those days) and went out in third place in their group behind Gothenburg and Barcelona. In their second season in the competition, 1999-2000, Arsenal also finished third in their group with eight points behind Barcelona and Fiorentina.

A similar performance from City this season, even allowing for the difficulty of their group, will be regarded as a failure. There are reasons for that, not least Mansour's extensive investment, although you could argue that he is simply compensating for years of being outside the virtuous circle of Champions League qualification. Tottenham Hotspur raised the bar by reaching the 2010-2011 quarter-finals in their first season as did Chelsea in their first appearance in the competition in 1999-2000.

More than anyone, however, it is City and their own vaulting ambition from which the pressure flows. Mancini's analogy at his press conference last night that while once the club were the equivalent of a Fiat Cinquecento now they are a Ferrari and the expectations have changed accordingly, demonstrated that he recognises what is at stake.

Mancini said: "We have a good team and we have played together for a few years, but I am sure we will win the trophy in the future. I don't know when, but at some stage, yes, the club will win."

With two wins and two draws in the league, as well as the Community Shield victory – referred to by David Silva as one of the club's "three titles" won in the last two seasons – City have started comfortably, if not in spectacular fashion. Contrast that to Real's woeful start, by their own standards, of one win in four league games and it is not hard to see where the pressure is focused come tonight.

Jose Mourinho's criticism of his players yesterday, comparing them unfavourably to his Internazionale team that won the Champions League in 2010, was a reminder of the kind of tensions that affected Mancini at the most difficult stages of last season. The competition between the two men is obvious: Mancini had never been past the quarter-finals of the Champions League with Inter before Mourinho went on to win it with the same club.

Asked about Mourinho last night, Mancini replied bluntly: "We don't have a personal relationship. I met him two times, Porto v Lazio in the Europa League, I know because I met him in Milan, four or five times, but I know him as a manager."

The defeat to Bayern Munich last season, the closest City have come in the recent past to opponents of Madrid's prestige in the modern era, eventually proved crucial. "We played very well in the first 30 minutes, three chances to score, but if you don't score, it can be difficult and this game will be the same," Mancini said.

"If you get a chance, you have to score. A draw could be a good result, but our mentality is not to defend, we don't have that mentality. If you want to do well, you have to attack very well and play football."

Real have won 40 and drawn two of the first matches they have played at home in the group stages. But then they have never played a team of City's calibre at this stage. Mancini said last night that his striker Sergio Aguero, his key injury worry, was "not 100 per cent" but could potentially start. Silva, who signed a new five-year deal yesterday, said he was not certain if Madrid's latest run of bad form might "waken the beast in them".

Either way, tonight is no smooth introduction to their second season in the Champions League. "We want to do better this year,' said Mancini, and they will have to do it the hard way.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



Key confrontations: Where the match will be won and lost

Cristiano Ronaldo v Vincent Kompany

With a phenomenal record of 151 goals in his 150 games in all competitions for Real Madrid, Ronaldo will be a constant threat to the City defence, cutting in from the left in his direct and powerful style. The City captain Kompany will have to time his tackles well to halt him, and not be dragged out of position.

Luka Modric v Yaya Toure

The recent £33m signing from Tottenham, Modric, is expected to get the nod ahead of Mesut Ozil for tonight's match in the middle of the front three of Real's midfield. The 27-year-old will punish City if he is allowed time on the ball and space in advanced positions, which Touré will aim to minimise. Touré will also look to dominate the centre of the pitch to start City on the attack.

Sami Khedira v David Silva

Buoyed by his new five-year contract, the former Valencia playmaker Silva will look to get in behind the space patrolled by the tireless Germany international to provide the cutting edge on the vast Bernabeu pitch. Khedira will have to keep a close eye on the movement of the astute 26-year-old, who created more goals in the Premier League than any other player last season.

Kick-off Tonight, 7.45pm, Bernabeu

TV ITV 1.

Referee D Skomina (Sloven)

Odds Real 4-6; draw 14-5; Man City 4-1

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?