x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Mancini says City need time to improve in Champions League

Just into the second game of the Uefa Champions League campaign and Roberto Mancini's men already face what may be a must-win to reach the second stage, writes Richard Jolly.

Manchester City's coach Roberto Mancini has had success with domestic titles in Italy and England but has found the going tougher in the Champions League.
Manchester City's coach Roberto Mancini has had success with domestic titles in Italy and England but has found the going tougher in the Champions League.

 

MANCHESTER // The Champions League often appears a case of false advertising.

Not Group D, however.

Whereas other pools are flooded by teams who did not win their domestic league, the champions of England, Germany, Spain and Holland are pitted against each other.

"For this reason, it is difficult," said Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager.

"It is good and difficult."

The problems began with City's last game in Europe, a 3-2 loss to Real Madrid. Even reaching the last 16, the manager believes: "Will be difficult."

It is all the harder as Borussia Dortmund visit the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.

German opposition proved City's undoing last year, with a 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich at the equivalent stage and, as Mancini pointed out, Dortmund have seen off the Bavarians' challenge to win back-to-back Bundesliga titles.

"They are one of the best teams in Europe," said the Italian.

It is why City's initial objective is simply to reach the knockout stages.

Thereafter, their aims are rather higher.

"It is important to get into the second stage because after that anything can happen," Mancini said.

"My ambition is to win it."

It would be a seismic step forward if he did.

A manager with a fine pedigree in domestic leagues, winning three Italian Serie A titles and England's Premier League in the past seven seasons, he has never progressed beyond the quarter-finals of Europe's premier club competition. "I hope I can improve my record in the Champions League," Mancini said.

But there is plenty of pedigree in his side. They boast Champions League winners in 2008, 2009 and 2010 in the shape of Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure and Maicon, respectively.

"With these kinds of players, I think we can go far and win this competition," said Toure, who helped Barcelona beat Manchester United in the 2009 final.

Quiet but determined, the midfielder's verdict on City's debut year in the Champions League was damning. Ten points were secured, but they were not enough for a top-two finish in their group and they dropped into the Europa League.

"Our last campaign was a disaster," Toure said.

"We want to change that. Look at our rivals, Chelsea and Manchester United; they have appeared in a final.

"This year I hope we can go far and even win it."

He was similarly outspoken on the subject of City's first game on the continent this season. Mancini's men led 2-1 with five minutes to go in the Bernabeu but Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo scored to turn a memorable victory into a damaging defeat.

"We want to show the fans we made a mistake in Madrid," Toure said.

The central problem was outlined by Mancini.

"I think we need time to improve in the Champions League but we do not have time," he said.

"We have only five [more group] games and we cannot concede goals like we did against Real Madrid if we want to go through."

Nor can they afford the same sort of result.

City have less margin for error.

A game in, this looks a must-win match.

"The position we are in now is quite serious because we lost in Madrid," Toure said.

They cannot afford another setback.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE