Mancini targeting win in Madrid to prove City really can be the Real deal in Europe
21:23 GMT, 16 September 2012
It is only 16 months since the biggest game of Roberto Mancini's Manchester City career amounted to beating Stoke in the FA Cup final at Wembley.
Tuesday night, in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, a somewhat more daunting challenge awaits. It is a measure of how far Mancini and City have come in that time that they fly to Spain on Monday as Premier League champions, talking up the possibility of beating Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid.
Hopeful: Roberto Mancini wants Manchester City to beat Real Madrid away from home
The Special One has not been shy in
reminding his opponents of Real's rich history and it is this, Mancini
acknowledged, that makes Tuesday night's Champions League opener the
Italian's biggest game since he took over in December 2009.
'It's a fantastic moment for everyone at the club,' he said. 'When you play against Real Madrid, they are the history of football for 100 years. They have won everything.
'Real Madrid don't have only Cristiano Ronaldo – the best player in the world with Lionel Messi – but they have 18 top players.
'I think these can be incredible moments in the career of every player, because we play against a team with 100 years of history.'
City's second foray into the Champions League promises to be every bit as difficult as the first after Ajax and Borussia Dortmund joined them in Group D.
Last season they were eliminated after defeats away to Bayern Munich, themselves eventually beaten on home soil by Chelsea in the final, and Napoli.
Mancini accepts his side are not at the same level as Madrid yet, but insists they will be up to the challenge in the Bernabeu.
As good a time as any: Cristiano Ronaldo and Real have been struggling to find their form
He said: 'Our mentality is not to go there – to Madrid or anywhere – for a draw or to lose. We always want to win.
'We have 24 players with Champions League experience who know this atmosphere. But we know it will be a tough game because we play against one of the best teams in the world.
'The group stage is difficult, like last year. But if we can get 10 points again I think we can go through.'
Sergio Aguero remains City's biggest injury concern having been out for the last month with a twisted right knee.
The Argentina striker trained with the rest of the squad for the first time on Friday but did not make the bench at Stoke.
Tuesday night Aguero is desperate to play, having never beaten Real in his five years at rivals Atletico Madrid.
Mancini will give him every chance to prove his fitness. 'He will travel with us,' said the City boss.
Man for the job: Sergio Aguero is desperate to play against Madrid having spent five years at Atletico before joining City
'We didn't want to take any risks today but maybe for Madrid he will be ready. He has another three days and I think he has a chance.'
Mancini may have beaten Stoke in that Cup final to claim City's first trophy in 35 years, but they have been harder to crack at the Britannia Stadium.
City's failure to find a winner after new signing Javi Garcia cancelled out Peter Crouch's controversial effort means that all four of Mancini's visits to Stoke in the Premier League have ended in 1-1 draws.
'It's our destiny here to always draw,' he said. 'Next year it's better if we don't come here. We take one point each and stay at home so we won't spend any money on the hotel!'
Andy Wilkinson must wait to see if he faces any action from the FA after replays appeared to show the Stoke defender raising his arm into the face of Mario Balotelli.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
City gave debuts to three new signings at Stoke with varying degrees of success.
JAVI GARCIA: Headed City's equaliser and could have scored a second but for Asmir Begovic's outstanding save off the post late on.
The 15.8million midfielder from Benfica looked dangerous in attack and solid in defence – a quality addition.
MAICON: Making your Premier League debut away to Stoke is not ideal but the Brazilian defender handled it surprisingly well.
It will be interesting to see how Mancini rotates the 3.1m man from Inter Milan with Pablo Zabaleta and Micah Richards also at right back.
SCOTT SINCLAIR: City paid Swansea an initial 6.2m for the winger, but is he any better than Adam Johnson
On this evidence, probably not. There was one promising run before he was replaced by David Silva but, like Johnson, you suspect Sinclair will have to get used to the bench.
P.S Don't forget Michael Owen… the former England striker came on late in the 90th minute.
He tweeted: 'Great to make my debut today albeit only for 3 minutes!'