Manchester City welcome Real Madrid to the Etihad on Wednesday as they search for their first win of this season’s Champions League in order to preserve their slim chances of making the knockout phase.
The Premier League champions’ domestic form has seen them climb to the top of the league table, but in Europe they have been not nearly as impressive. It could have been a very different story for Roberto Mancini’s side. Leading 2-1 in the Bernabeu with five minutes remaining on match day one, City were looking good to claim a potentially pivotal three points as they sought to make it out of the group stages for the first time.
But then Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo popped up to turn a priceless victory into an agonizing defeat full of subsequent recriminations. City have yet to recover. A 1-1 draw in Manchester against Borussia Dortmund flattered the hosts, while taking one point from two matches against Ajax was a paltry return.
There is a degree of amazement that City still possesses even a mathematical chance of qualification. With just two points, though, they need to win both their remaining matches and hope other results fall incredibly in their favor.
“We don't have much chance to go through but it's important to put in a good performance,” said City manager Roberto Mancini, according to Uefa.com. “It was a difficult group from the start and now it's very difficult because of the mistakes we made in the first two games.”
The group has not been completely plain sailing for Real Madrid, either, but the Spanish champions could secure progress with a draw or victory in Manchester depending on the result between Dortmund and Ajax.
Real struggled in both matches against Dortmund, losing in Germany before needing an 89th minute equalizer from Mesut Ozil to claim a point back in Madrid. Jose Mourinho will know that securing one of the top two spots should be a formality, but he will be looking for his side to take care of business without the need of a final game against Ajax.
Real, who warmed up for the clash with a 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, will be without Gonzalo Higuain and Marcelo.
For City, Gael Clichy is expected to miss out with an ankle injury picked up during a 5-0 victory over Aston Villa on Saturday. Mario Balotelli is also a doubt, although James Milner could make a return.
Manchester City (probable)
D: Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Kolarov
M: Nasri, Toure, Barry, Silva
F: Tevez, Aguero
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Coentrao
M: Khedira, Alonso
Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo
Prediction: While qualification remains a remote possibility, City will surely be playing for pride on Wednesday and looking to belatedly prove that they can cut it against Europe’s best. With Real still needing points themselves, this could be a closely fought and engaging fixture.
Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid
Where to watch: The Champions league Group D match kicks-off from the Etihad at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available via FoxSoccer2Go.