Special night if City 'do' one & Ron
By Dave Walker
Manchester City will be hoping Jose Mourinho’s pre-match prediction comes true and Ronaldo chalks up a hat-trick with a difference in City’s do-or-die Champions League clash with Real Madrid.
|Ronaldo returns to Manchester tomorrow night|
Photo: Denis Doyle/Getty Images Europe
Even the most rabid, sky blue tinted spectacle wearing City fanatic would be hard pressed to believe their beloved team can wriggle Houdini-like out of their Champions League straight jacket and concrete boots.
With a paltry two points garnered from away trips to Madrid and Amsterdam and home ties with the Dutch champions and Borussia Dortmund, it will take one of the biggest and most unlikely turnarounds in European history for City to grace the knockout stages.
It doesn't however, stop Roberto Mancini’s men going out in a blaze of glory and inflicting serious damage on Madrid’s aspirations for a record 10th Euro crown.
The self proclaimed ‘Special One’ has already admitted his astonishment at City’s Group D predicament. He might even be sincere when he says he believes City are well capable of overhauling his team at the Etihad Stadium.
Apparently desperate to return to the English game’s elite, one could be forgiven for believing Jose’s comments are a barb at Mancini and a not so subtle promotion of his, admittedly, impeccable credentials, should Sheikh Mansour seek to dispense with the popular Italian.
The fact City now have an ex-Barcelona executive hierarchy of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain makes a Mourinho to City move even more remote, but nonetheless, a well crafted home win would enable Mancini to put one over on his nemesis. It was Mourinho remember, who delighted in mocking Mancini’s inability to guide Inter Milan to Champions League success after succeeding him at the San Siro.
And then there’s the return of ‘The Special Ron’ – good old pretty boy himself – loathed by City fans but undeniably a supreme football talent. A veritable goal machine and the La Liga player of the year, the City faithful would love to see Fergie’s favourite son make it a hat-trick…of Etihad dismissals.
Sent off in January 2006 for a foul on another ex-Red, Andy Cole and then shown a red card in November 2008 for a petulant handball offence after earlier fouling Shaun Wright Phillips, no Blues would shed a tear were he to head for an early shower.
Football purists would argue it would ruin the game to have the world’s second best player sent off - 46,000 City fans would beg to differ.
City’s campaign could well avoid the last rites with a vital win ad allow them to nurture the faintest of hopes when visiting Dortmund in December.
As they rose to the top of the Premier League for the first time last Saturday, one gets the feeling that this is a team primed for lift-off after a mixed, but ultimately successful, first three months of the season.
Mancini proclaims that his dozy defenders have risen from slumber with heightened powers of concentration at set plays and no longer susceptible to conceding sloppy goals.
At the other end of the field City have Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez making all the right noises, and more importantly, starting to bang in the goals. Ex-Athletico Madrid marksman Aguero has never been on the winning side against the men from the Bernabeu – he’d like to start now.
Tevez, in a remarkable portrayal of contentment, has called for patience and understanding, putting City’s two Champions League attempts into context against the extended periods it took both Manchester United and Chelsea to succeed.
With Micah Richards as the only likely casualty, Mancini has a clean bill of health among his squad and will feel his City side can edge Madrid.
Kompany and Nastasic are growing in stature as a partnership but both they and whoever gets the full back berths, Maicon, Zabaleta, Clichy or Kolarov, will need to work their proverbials off to suppress returning Red Ronnie. It can be done.
Silva and Yaya can work the middle of the park to outmuscle and outpass Alonso, Ozil, Modric or whoever Jose selects, and of course the boys from Argentina can wreak havoc among Madrid’s suspect backline, led by the Portuguese Pepe.
At this stage it isn’t about pride. It’s about professionalism and belief. Make no mistake City can win this game, it’s just a case of ordering ‘two Specials to go’ – all the way into Champions League oblivion.
You can also follow Dave on Twitter: @djwskyblu
(c) The Sky Blue View 2012