City players in high spirits as they prepare for one of the biggest games in the club's history against Real
14:40 GMT, 18 September 2012
It is one of the biggest games in their history, but Manchester City's players betrayed no signs of nerves as they prepare to take on Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
The squad were in an upbeat and confident mood as they were put through their paces at Real's Ciudad training complex on the morning of the game.
Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and company took part in some light ball control and passing drills on an astroturf pitch at the impressive 1.2m square metre facility.
And the players were all smiles as they signed autographs for local admirers and frolicked around with the ball.
Phone home! Mario Balotelli checks his messages during Manchester City training at the Ciudad Real Madrid complex on Tuesday
City meet Real at the Bernabeu looking
to make the perfect start in a tough Group D which also contains Ajax
and Borussia Dortmund, the champions of Holland and Germany
Manager Roberto Mancini is boosted by
the return of striker Sergio Aguero from injury as the Argentina
international returns to a city where he spent five years with Real's
And Spaniard David Silva further
lightened Mancini's mood by agreeing to a new five-year contract despite
speculation he may join the Spanish champions.
Silva is like to play off Aguero in a 4-3-2-1 system that won't be short on attacking potential.
But with Real likely to enjoy long
spells of possession and plenty of territory in City's half, much will
depend on the three-man shield in front of the defence – likely to be
Gareth Barry, Yaya Toure and Javi Garcia.
Familiar surroundings: Sergio Aguero spent five years in Madrid… but for Real's cross-city rivals Atletico
Despite facing the Group of Death, Mancini was brimming with optimism ahead of their second Champions League campaign.
Last night, he said: 'If you drive a
Ferrari you can win. We used to drive a Fiat or Cinquecento (at his
former club Inter Milan) and it is not so easy. But now we drive a
'We have a good team and we play
together for a few years. I am sure we will win the trophy in the
future. I don't know when, but at some stage, the club will win.'
Last season's European campaign
brought disappointment as City were eliminated to the Europa League
after finishing third in a group also featuring Bayern Munich, Napoli
They were then knocked out of the Europa League by Sporting Lisbon at the Last 16 stage.
Euro Star: Carlos Tevez prepares for City's opening Champions League group stage match with Real Madrid
Despite that chastening experience,
Mancini said City had grown in confidence and promised to take the game
to Madrid, who have had a shaky start to the season amid speculation
over Cristiano Ronaldo's future.
He 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. That is what we will do.
'I think it was a good experience last
year – we did a good group but it was not enough. I think the group
will be stronger this year but it will be difficult for all the teams.
'I think it is important now that we
go to the second stage. After February anything can happen, but now it
is difficult to say what we can do.'
It's mine! David Silva, back in his home country, shields the ball from Joe Hart (centre)
For the thousands of City fans in
Madrid, watching a City side crammed with world class talent capable of
winning the biggest club prize in Europe walk out in the Bernabeu will
represent a surreal moment.
On this week just 14 years ago, City
required an 86th minute winner from Shaun Goater to beat Macclesfield
Town in the third tier of English football, a result followed up with a dire
1-1 home draw against Chesterfield.
Tightly knit: City's players, including Gareth Barry (left), know tonight represents the toughest challenge for the club in many years
If there is ever a good time to play Real, then this is probably it. The La Liga champions have already lost twice this season in four games and trail Barcelona by eight points.
Manager Jose Mourinho was also criticised over the weekend for putting the boot into his players for not trying hard enough.
Mourinho is likely to start with former Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric and he came out fighting on Monday night.
He said: 'My conviction is tomorrow that we will have a proper team. I'm absolutely convinced of this.
'We will have a compact team full of solidarity where the team is the most important thing, where everyone wants to work for everyone else's sake, a team where everyone wants to play at 100 per cent, regarding personal and professional principles.
'I think we will be at the top of our game. We may be missing calmness and self-confidence, perhaps missing these. And it is not easy to play against a team like Manchester City.
'Yes, we come from a poor match, where people know it was a terrible game. But I believe the team believes and has the ambition and the professionalism, I think they will be a the top of their game. Perhaps I'm wrong but this is my feeling.'