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Real Madrid plagued by trouble ahead of City clash

Updated: 2012-09-18 07:58
By Agence France-Presse in Madrid (China Daily)

Real Madrid goes into its Champions League tie against Manchester City in the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday full of doubts after an indifferent start to its La Liga campaign.

The opening clash in a strong Group D, which also includes Dutch champion Ajax and Bundesliga winner Borussia Dortmund, will be crucial for both sides' aspirations to be crowned the continent's top side this season.

Madrid was beaten in the semifinals the past two years, while City disappointed in its first ever appearance last season, going out in a group won by Bayern Munich, the eventual runner-up and semifinal victor over Madrid.

City's only European triumph to date came in the 1970 European Cup Winners Cup, but on the back of its first English league title in 44 years, nights like Tuesday in the Bernabeu mean it can finally aspire to challenge sides at the top of European soccer.

The 1-0 defeat at Sevilla on Saturday left Madrid with four points from four games, its worst La Liga start since the 2001-02 season.

However, that year Vicente del Bosque's side had the same points haul from the same number of games before going on to win the club's ninth and last Champions League title, beating Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 in Glasgow.

The obsession with winning "la decima", or the 10th title, has consumed the club ever since and coach Jose Mourinho will eventually be judged on whether he is able to deliver.

Real's poor league start already puts it eight points behind rival Barcelona and has set the alarm bells ringing for the Portuguese coach.

"More then 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. At this moment I have no team," he said.

City drew 1-1 at Stoke on Saturday, meaning it remains unbeaten in the Premier League and it was an ex-Madrid player, Javi Garcia, who got the equalizer on his debut.

Garcia, a deadline day signing from Benfica, started his career at the Bernabeu and will be keen to play some part on Tuesday.

"The first objective is to fight for the Premier League, because after so long without success, winning that title has excited the fans again, but it is true also that we have to something to prove in the Champions League," he said.

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.

Argentine striker Sergio Aguero, who was not risked at Stoke after a knee injury limited his start to the campaign, has a good chance of playing in the city where he made his name at Atletico.

Mourinho will have a full squad to choose from and may prefer Luka Modric ahead of Mesut Ozil or Angel Di Maria after neither impressed and were replaced at halftime in Seville.

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