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Champions League Preview: Real Madrid vs. Manchester City

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Tuesday night will host a Champions League showdown between the Spanish and English Champions, as Real Madrid v Manchester City takes centre stage. This is the showcase game of Match Day One in the 2012/13 Champions League and all eyes will be on the Bernabeu as the stellar showdown pits the two favourites in Group D, dubbed the Group of Champions, together. Also in the group are Dutch champions Ajax and German champions Borussia Dortmund. There is going to be little margin for error in such a tough group, so there will be an early battle for ascendancy.

Where there is Jose Mourinho, there are usually talking points. The biggest one surrounding the match up against Manchester City, is Mourinho’s ambition to fulfil Real Madrid’s quest of gaining their tenth European Cup. For the last two seasons, Real Madrid have exited at the semi final stage and it has been over a decade since the great French legend Zinidane Zidane struck a beautiful left footed strike to give them the title. But disappointments will not throw any water on the ambitions of The Special One. Jose Mourinho is a born and bred winner.

After taking over at Real Madrid in 2010, when they were not even seeded in the Group Stage of the Champions League, Mourinho has transformed the Merengues. The Bernabeu outfit finally ended Barcelona’s dominance in La Liga, as Mourinho led Madrid to the league title last season. They started this season with a Spanish Super Cup victory over their bitter rivals as well, so everything seemed to be on the right path. But the early season success was misleading. Amid all the talk of Real Madrid gaining a beautiful tenth European Cup, there may be cracks starting to appear.

Jose Mourinho has won the UEFA Champions League twice, once with FC Porto and once with Inter Milan. Can he get Real Madrid there? If so, he will have to overcome some big issues, starting with their from. Mourinho stated that Madrid have only played well once this season, and that was in their home leg of the Super Cup final when they beat Barcelona. After losing their second La Liga match in five on the weekend, Jose Mourinho called out his players, saying that they were not committed enough and that he just didn’t have a team right now. One win and two draws is all that Mourinho’s men have managed in the league and they sit eight points back of Barcelona already.

Their star player Cristiano Ronaldo has looked a subdued figure, telling the world that he was “sad” at his professional status with the club. So fractures may be starting to appear at the Bernabeu, but Mourinho’s grip won’t loosen. He won’t care how Ronaldo feels, he just wants him to play well. With all the troubles filtering out of Real Madrid, will English champions Manchester City be able to capitalise? After failing to qualify from the group stages last season, manager Roberto Mancini has his sights set higher. But like Real Madrid, City have not come out firing on all cylinders on the domestic front either, winning just two of their opening four matches. Is the weight of expectation, the pressure starting to tell early on?

Mourinho challenged what Mancini has done at Manchester City as well, saying that the English club just can’t buy the Champions League overnight. City have spent big over the past couple of years, but Mourinho believes that winning big takes more than just spending money. The proof of that could be in Manchester City’s record of 4 defeats in their last six away matches in Europe. So will the real Real Madrid show up this week? Will we see the results of Mourinho putting his foot down? Last season the Merengues won six out of six home matches in the Champions League, that is the might against which Man City have to play. Bernabeu was a fortress last season for Real Madrid and despite their early season wobbles, they haven’t lost there yet this season.

So will this be a pressure release which leaves the English champions facing a backlash? A possible tenth European Cup is on the cards for Real Madrid and for such a special managerial talent in Jose Mourinho, it would be fitting if it was he who did it. While Madrid are chasing their tenth, City are chasing their first. Are the pretenders really ready for the big stage in Spain?

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