Manchester City vs. Real Madrid 2012: A must-win game for Citizens

Alex Livesey

The task ahead is simple enough for Manchester City. Only a win over Real Madrid will do if they want to keep their Champions League dreams alive.

When Madrid and City staged their epic clash at the Bernabéu in the opening group stage match, you figured the return match at the Ethiad would be a big deal. What we didn't count on was for City to struggle and make this game as much about their Champions League survival as it is about a meeting between two league champions.

We also knew that this group would be tough, but it's been even better (and tougher) than we expected thanks to some stout performances from Ajax. Madrid, considered by some to be the best team in the world, are in second place while City are languishing in fourth. Not what anyone expected, but for the neutral observer, it means a whole bunch of excitement and drama on deck.

City will be playing for their lives with only two group matches left to play, including today. Roberto Mancini's men have only two points from four matches and must pick up all three against Madrid to have any hope of making the last match day important for them.

Keeping up the two theme, only two teams have ever managed to come back from a similar position, Lokomotiv Moskow with one point after four games in 2002-03 and Porto with two points in 2004-05...so you're saying there's a chance?!

Maybe.

Even if they can get the victory, they're going to need some help from group leaders Dortmund to keep Ajax from getting any more points as well.

Oh the drama!

Madrid on the other hand just want to win and see if Ajax falls, a combination of results that would put them in the Round of 16. Gonzalo Higuain remains sidelined with a thigh problem, but the rest of the potent Los Blancos attack will be available.

Mourinho sounded confident in the pre-match press conference, offering up his rather pointed opinion about his opponent's chances.

"I think they can win tomorrow, of course they can, and they can also win in Dortmund, why not, but eight points is not enough.

"I think they are out for a second time and that must be difficult for them."

If Mancini has a bulletin board, he might want to post that. Then again, if his team needs further motivation for this match, there are bigger problems to be dealt with.

Manchester City injuries and suspensions

Out: Joleon Lescott (back), James Milner (hamstring), Micah Richards (knee). In doubt: Gael Clichy (ankle), Samir Nasri (illness), Jack Rodwell (hamstring).

Real Madrid injuries and suspensions

Out: Gonzalo Higuain (thigh), Marcelo (broken foot). In Doubt: None.

Clichy is a big doubt after injuring his ankle on the weekend. Rodwell and Nasri are both doubtful but could be available for selection. Madrid's only injury issues are Higuain and Marcelo, but who whom have long term issues.

Match Date/Time: 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET

Venue: Ethiad Stadium, Manchester, England

TV: FOX Soccer (U.S.), Sky Sports 2 (U.K.), Sportsnet (Canada)

Online: FOX Soccer 2 Go (U.S.)

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