Here are five decisions and dilemmas for Roberto Mancini to weigh up...
Which formation should he use?
The formation Mancini decides to go with will shape the rest of his selection. Away from home will he be conservative or bold? Will he play with one striker? Carlos Tevez' versatility gives him options, as the Argentine can play deeper behind another forward, pressuring the opponent when they have the ball, but ensuring the side still have a target up top. It may be Mancini decides to go just with Tevez, or partner him with the out-of-form Balotelli, or the in-form Dzeko. Aguero remains the wildcard, more later. In pre-season Mancini toyed with three in defence, so he could pack his midfield and play wingbacks while keeping two forwards. This might play into Real Madrid's hands, with Ronaldo and Di Maria liking to occupy the wide areas, so we'd suggest he sticks with the tried and tested four at the back.
Who should be in the back four, is another matter. Let's take a look at the right-back spot. Micah Richards found himself dropped from City's latter Champions League campaign last season for Pablo Zabaleta, who faces a battle himself here. Richards is injured, and it is Maicon now providing the competition, a winner in this competition just two seasons ago. Maicon made his debut against Stoke at the weekend with Zabaleta suffering a hamstring complaint, but he is in the squad for tonight's game. Tactically Maicon is the more attacking player, but he knows Mourinho and his systems, so it could work either way. If Zabaleta is fully fit, Mancini may just play safe.
Gael Clichy started against Stoke, despite pulling out of France's midweek World Cup qualifier against Belarus with a slight injury. So far in the league Clichy has started twice, and Aleksandr Kolarov twice, making this one of Mancini's more unpredictable decisions. Kolarov was preferred in the Champions League last season, with mixed success, and there are pro's and con's this time. Clichy has played against Cristiano Ronaldo before with Arsenal and is more familiar with what to expect, and his pace is likely to be an asset defensively. However Kolarov's set pieces could be vital if City are to nick a goal for a crucial draw or victory, and this could tempt Mancini into starting him.
Newboys Sinclair and Garcia
Both Scott Sinclair and Javi Garcia were handed debuts at the weekend alongside Maicon, in an effort to assess them and give them a chance to get up to speed. But what role will they play tonight? Javi Garcia scored at the weekend, and as a former Real Madrid player, he knows what to expect at the Bernabeu in terms of atmosphere.The defensive midfielder is likely to be vital to Mancini's plans, and will allow Yaya Toure greater freedom, and is likely to start. Scott Sinclair is another matter. He said he is desperate to feature, but that offers no guarantees. The man he replaced Adam Johnson would have been unlikely to start here, so Mancini's tactical plan should be no different. One option is to have Sinclair take the role of hugging the touchline high up the pitch and prevent Madrid's full-backs from bombing forward, but a more likely scenario is to have the young winger come off the bench and try to turn the game late on.
Sergio Aguero's involvement
As we alluded earlier, Aguero is Mancini's not-so-secret-weapon. The Argentine striker has been out since the opening weekend when he suffered a knee injury, and had hoped to play some role at the weekend. Mancini insists the forward is available to him, and he could still spring a surprise by starting him. Aguero and City's medical staff will have been targeting this as a comeback match, and they will do everything they can to have him ready. Aguero used to play for the home side's rivals Atletico of course, and would no doubt love to make an impact at the Bernabeu. If a start is not handed to him, it is still likely he will play some involvement from the bench, and just his very presence and movement will be enough to worry the Madrid defenders.
Where do you stand on the five decisions? What would your starting XI be?
image: © jansolo09