MADRID: Real Madrid go into their Champions League tie against Manchester City in the Santiago Bernabeu tonight full of doubts after an indifferent start to their La Liga campaign.
The opening clash in a strong Group D, that also includes Dutch champions Ajax and Bundesliga winners Borussia Dortmund, will be crucial for both sides’ aspirations to be crowned the continent’s top side this season. Madrid are beaten semi-finalists in the past two years while City disappointed in their first ever appearance last season going out in a group won by Bayern Munich.
City’s only European triumph to date came in the 1970 European Cup Winners Cup, but on nights like tonight mean they can finally aspire to challenge sides at the top of European football.
The 1-0 defeat at Sevilla on Saturday left Madrid with four points from four games, their worst La Liga start since the 2001-02 season.
The obsession of winning ‘la decima’, or the 10th title, has consumed the club ever since and coach Jose Mourinho will be judged on whether he is able to deliver. Real’s poor league start already puts them eight points behind rivals Barcelona and has set the alarm bells ringing for the Portuguese coach.
“More than the points difference I worry about my team and the fact that since the start of the season we have only played well in the Super Cup against Barca, a little bit against Valencia and a little bit against Granada,” said Mourinho. “At this moment I have no team.”
Meanwhile, City coach Roberto Mancini has concentrated on the dynasty he hopes to leave at the club.
“It’s clear that we don’t have the history like Real Madrid but I think that Manchester City have won some trophies and we want to win more in the next 10 years,” said Mancini.
Confident Arsenal look for win
After a frustrating start to the season, Arsenal appear to have hit form just in time for tonight’s trip to debutants Montpellier in their opening Champions League fixture.
Having endured a turbulent summer that saw captain Robin van Persie and Alex Song leave the club, Arsene Wenger has been thrilled to see his side find their feet ahead of a testing run of fixtures in the weeks ahead. In another match between Dortmund and Ajax, coach Jurgen Klopp believes Borussia Dortmund desperately need a winning start in their Champions League opener against Ajax Amsterdam.
Having won the German league and cup double last season, Dortmund are back in the Champions League for the second year running, but looking to improve on last season’s poor performance which saw them finish last in the group stages.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2012.
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