Roberto Mancini stokes the fire for Real Madrid visit

Stoke City 1 Manchester City 1

Roberto Mancini smiled when asked if a trip to the Britannia Stadium was good preparation for visiting the Bernabeu. "I think so," was his wry reply; the reality is that the 871 miles separating the two places might as well be a million in respect of the different type of challenge Manchester City will face against Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid, the Spanish champions.

If Saturday was City's Groundhog Day – their fourth successive 1-1 league draw at a battling, in-your-face Stoke side – their challenge now is to avoid a different kind of déjà vu as Mancini's men swap the Britannia's bacon butty for the finest jamon serrano of the Bernabeu.

City began last year's debut Champions League campaign in faltering fashion, with a home draw with Napoli and a 2-0 defeat at Bayern Munich, results that set the tone for a disappointing early exit. Now as then they find themselves in the toughest section – Group D also contains Borussia Dortmund and Ajax, both domestic champions – and Mancini, while maintaining that his side were unlucky to suffer elimination last term with 10 points, knows they must hit the ground running this time.

"The group stage is difficult like last year and we start again at a difficult ground against a top team," he said. "We should be ready for it to be very difficult. They have fantastic players. If we want to get a good result there we must play very well."

Mancini was speaking before Madrid's second defeat in four La Liga outings – 1-0 at Seville on Saturday night – but irrespective of Mourinho's men's shaky form, it is still a tough trip and the Italian added: "When you play Champions League every team is a top team, every game is difficult, but when you play Real or Barça they [have] won everything in history; it will be [extra] difficult."

Along with 3,500 fans, City's travelling party should include Gareth Barry, whose substitute appearance on Saturday was his first since he missed Euro 2012. Mancini also hopes to have Sergio Aguero available tomorrow and he sees a squad well equipped for the challenge. "I think we have 23 or 24 good players. We have good players with experience; they have played the Champions League, they know this atmosphere."

One player well acquainted with the Bernabeu atmosphere is Javi Garcia. The Madrid academy product, signed from Benfica last month, made an impressive debut at Stoke in central midfield alongside fellow new boys Maicon and Scott Sinclair. Garcia nodded City's equaliser and would have had a second but for Asmir Begovic's superb save from another header in the last minute. Indeed, but for Begovic, who also foiled Yaya Touré, and Ryan Shawcross's stunning final-kick, goal-line clearance from Edin Dzeko, City would have won this match. Still, Mancini conceded they would need "better defending" against Cristiano Ronaldo and company. Although they were unlucky that referee Mark Clattenburg failed to see Peter Crouch handle the ball as he smuggled it past both Joleon Lescott and Garcia before scoring, it was still a messy goal to concede and City remain without a clean sheet in 2012-13.

"It definitely hit my hand," admitted Crouch. He went on to offer a different interpretation than England manager Roy Hodgson of the pre-Euro 2012 events that have left him in international exile, saying he had not refused to go on standby for the squad, as Hodgson claimed last week. "It wasn't a case of being a standby, I think he wanted me to play in one of the friendlies and then go home. I'll be honest, I was disappointed not to be called up to the full squad."

Real league woes continue

Real Madrid continued their poor start to the defence of their La Liga title on Saturday, losing 1-0 at Seville for their second defeat in four league matches this season. The Spanish champions, who host Manchester City in the Champions League tomorrow night, went down to an early goal from Piotr Trochowski. The German international volleyed home after escaping the attentions of Angel di Maria. Real hit the woodwork twice, through Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos, but were unable to find an equaliser.

James Mariner

Match facts

Booked: Man City Garcia.

Man of match Garcia.

Attempts on target: Stoke 3. MC 11.

Referee M Clattenburg (Co Durham).

Att 27,101.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn