There are many reasons for City to be positive tonight. Teams have qualified from similar positions before. Porto did it in 2004-05 and Lokomotiv Moscow achieved the same feat a year earlier. Porto overcame CSKA Moscow while Lokomotiv dumped Italian giant Inter Milan out with two wins from their final two fixtures.
City have a good home record in UEFA Competitions; currently unbeaten in 19 home games since a solitary Daniel Olsen goal earned Danish outfit FC Midtjylland a 1-0 win against a City side managed by Mark Hughes containing the likes of Tal Ben-Haim, Gelson Fernandes and Felipe Caicedo.
The pressure is off of City now and that can be a galvanising thought. However while dreaming of qualification is one thing the main focus of City’s ahead of tonight’s fixture must surely be how to defeat Real Madrid.
Both sides come into the game on the back of thrashing opposition in the league at the weekend. City tore Aston Villa apart while Real Madrid did similar to Athletic Bilbao with Karim Benzema stepping up to take the acclaim in the wake of a rare goalless performance from Cristiano Ronaldo.
To do so they must halt Cristiano Ronaldo who is embroiled in a fight with Lionel Messi for the claim of best player in the world.
It leads to an interesting argument that could form a predicament for Roberto Mancini. What do you do with Yaya Toure in this fixture?
In the tie at The Bernabeu the Ivorian was undoubtedly the star of the show for Manchester City along with Joe Hart until late errors cost him the plaudits he deserved. It even lead people to feel as if ITV commentator Andy Townsend had some bizarre affection for the bulky midfielder the way the pundit carried on about his performance.
For all his obvious attacking prowess Mancini could also utilise him in a more defensive role. Out of all of City’s midfield players he is the only one capable of picking up the floating runs of Cristiano Ronaldo and actually doing something about it. He has in the past; for Barcelona against United and again with Blaugrana against Real during Ronaldo’s debut La Liga season.
With his strength, pace and power he is the only one who can help out defensively when Ronaldo drops into the area between midfield and defence to retrieve the ball. I mean can you see Gareth Barry doing that job?
Obviously there is also the threat of Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria and co to contend with and also by nullifying Toure’s attacking threat it may allow the likes of Khedira and Alonso far too much time on the ball to influence the game.
The key to the fixture is pressure. Allow Madrid time on the ball and they will dissect you clinically and the first point of contact should be Toure on Ronaldo.
The result tonight may rest on how Yaya Toure performs both offensively and defensively.
Should City sacrifice Toure to nullify Ronaldo? Or would it allow the other stars for Real time to shine?
image: © marc_tacoma