City still hopeful of ‘miracle’
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini may think his side need a miracle but his players have not given up hope of making it through to the next round of the Champions League.
City must beat Real Madrid on Wednesday and then Borussia Dortmund in their final game and hope that other results go their way to advance to the knockout phase.
The big-spending English champions sit on top of the Premier League again this season but have looked clueless in Europe as their lack of tactical nous has seen them flatter to deceive.
A 3-2 defeat in Madrid, when they had led 2-1 with just a few minutes to go, knocked their confidence and they await the arrival of Madrid with trepidation.
Mancini joked that he would need to "call the police" to stop the prolific Ronaldo, whose goals have kept Madrid apace with Barcelona in recent seasons.
"I just hope he can have a bad night on Wednesday because when you come up against a player who can score one or two goals every game it is difficult," Mancini said.
"Ronaldo is a top player and he deserves to win the Ballon d'Or. He scored so many goals last year and that helped Real to finish above Barcelona."
Mancini has said several times that City were effectively out of the event but even the Italian hinted that there may be hope.
"If we had come back from the Bernabeu with a good result it would have probably changed this group for us," he said.
"It was really disappointing. It's not easy to play there and in the first half they played better than us, but the match totally changed in the second half and, when you are 2-1 up with three minutes to go, you should be very strong to close the game.
"I think that we don't have any chance to go to the second stage, but football is strange."
Certainly, his players still believe that anything is possible, especially as Madrid would be under pressure to qualify if they lose at Eastlands.
"We must win this game," striker Sergio Aguero said. "Whatever the final scoreline is, we'll show on the field that we don't give up, like we did in the game against Ajax and in every game we've played.
"We have a great team, I have no doubt about it and now it is time for us to show just how good we are."
Aguero also said that he had a special personal reason for wanting to do well against Madrid.
"Never defeating Real when I was with Atletico was a real regret for me - Atletico haven't succeeded in beating them for many years - but I did get to score against them even if we never managed a win," he said.
"Wednesday night will hopefully break that run for me.
And midfielder James Milner believes the whole City side feel that an upset is possible.
"We'll be going for it, make no mistake and we will continue to believe until it becomes mathematically impossible," the Englishman said.
"We'll be going out to win and unlikely as it is that we will go through, we want to win our remaining two games and give ourselves at least half a chance.
"If that's not good enough, at least we can finish with our heads held high knowing that we kept going until the end."
City are likely to be without full-back Gael Clichy because of an ankle injury while striker Mario Balotelli is doubtful with a back problem.
City beat Aston Villa 5-0 at the weekend to return to the top of the Premier League but Madrid's Sergio Ramos said the Spanish side is confident they can get the result they need.
"For me, it's a surprise they are nearly out of the Champions League," Ramos said.
"We really thought City would be our main rivals to top the group.
"City are a big group of players, not just individuals. But that does not guarantee success in the Champions League.
"City have improved in the Premier League. But we do not fear them. Real Madrid can win in any stadium in the world."