Mancini is feeling the heat… and the Manchester City boss can't afford to lose to Dortmund and United
13:04 GMT, 4 December 2012
A year ago next Monday, Manchester City lost their first game of the Barclays Premier League. A 2-1 defeat at Chelsea it signalled the end of a long unbeaten run that ultimately ensured that Roberto Mancini's team could withstand some inevitable hiccups later in the season and still win their first title of the modern era.
Once again this season City have yet to be turned over in the league. Things in Europe have been considerably more difficult but in the Premier League the champions' unbeaten run already stretches to 15 game ahead of Sunday's Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.
Middle man: Manchester City's manager Roberto Mancini
It is unfortunate, then, that City still seem a little uneasy and that their manager continues to appear a little uncomfortable. As City look to defend their title – which is always hard – they still appear to be in need of some improvement.
From that point of view, this is an important week. Lose at Dortmund in the Champions League and City will suffer the indignity of finishing bottom of their group without a win and will not even qualify for the Europa League.
Lose to United on Sunday and they will be six points behind their rivals in the Premier League.
Two victories, on the other hand, could provide City with a little momentum and could give them the kind of lift-off that their season has lacked so far.
We could talk all day about the intricacies of City's season so far, about Mancini's state of mind and about the form of some of his key players. Certainly City would improve overnight if players like Vincent Kompany, YaYa Toure, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero could remember who they are.
Cold front: The players have uneasy relationship with Mancini
Tight call: Mancini waiting for a flight to Germany
However, one thing that City's season has definitely lacked so far is a significant victory.
Mancini's team have accumulated
their 33 points in a rather functional manner up until now. Nothing
wrong with that. There are no extra marks given in football for artistic
They have, however, managed only draws against teams like Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Dortmund.
Taken in isolation, these results are decent enough. But individual victories over your direct domestic rivals or big European teams can do wonders for the direction and impetus of a season and City, it must be said, are a team that look to be crying out for one at the moment.
Tonight in Germany, Mancini will rest some players as he looks to give his team the best possible chance of facing United in rude health on Sunday.
The City coach knows that, despite their league position, Sir Alex Ferguson's league leaders are vulnerable defensively and feels that if his team can click in to gear offensively then they could very well come away with the victory that they need to take them to the summit themselves and deliver the kind of message that may an impact both outside and inside their own dressing room.
Question time: Mancini quizzed by the media at Manchester Airpoirt
Still got it: Mancini shows off his ball skills during training
City supporters bristle when their own team's 'uncertain form' is mentioned. Certainly, Alan Hansen's suggestion on Match of the Day on Saturday that the champions have 'struggled all season' seemed to over-state the point a little.
Nevertheless, it is true that City have looked rather unlike themselves so far this term. This has been a team that has scraped together its victories, rather than ease teams aside in the Premier League as it did on the first third of last season's campaign.
Some may suggest its symptomatic of a playing squad no longer totally in tune with its manager. Others may argue that City are suffering from a shortage of confidence and from a reduced impact from their big name players.
Whatever the case, two victories in the next five days would see things looking a good deal brighter.