Mancini admits City must become slicker in defence
ROBERTO MANCINI has conceded Joe Hart had a point in saying Manchester City should have been able to hang on to their advantage in the Bernabeu better than they did, accepting that his side made a mistake in defending too deep for the last five minutes.
The City manager did not mention Hart by name, but essentially agreed with the goalkeeper he criticised in the aftermath of the 3-2 defeat by Real Madrid, that a Champions League side good enough to take a 2-1 lead in one of Europe’s most intimidating arenas needed to be smart enough to see out the game without conceding twice in the closing seconds.
“In the second half in Madrid we played really well, but it was a mistake to drop back too deep after scoring our second,” Mancini said. “We conceded a lot of space to players as good as Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, and that’s what cost us. If we are going to get out of this Champions League group we need to improve very quickly because we only have five games left, and we need to stop conceding easy goals like we did in Madrid.”
City play their first home game of the campaign against Borussia Dortmund, facing up to the possibility that another defeat would leave them pointless after two matches and looking at a repeat of last year’s scenario, when despite claiming 10 points they could only manage a third-place finish.
Part of the reason City struggled last season was because Bayern Munich were so good, topping their group with 13 points, yet as Mancini is only too aware, Dortmund’s credentials are even stronger. “In my opinion they are one of the best teams in Europe,” he said. “They are young, they have good players such as Robert Lewandowski and Marco Reus, and they have finished ahead of Bayern Munich for the past two years . . . If we concede too much space again, we will pay for it.”
In their short Champions League history City have known little other than tough games, yet Mancini feels his side have simply been again unlucky with the draw, rather than victims of a Uefa seeding policy that places a greater importance on qualification consistency rather than recent achievement.
Arsenal were seeded higher than City, for instance, because of their long Champions League history, and found themselves in an easier group, whereas the newly-crowned champions of England drew the champions of Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
Last season City had to take what was coming, as Champions League debutants who had finished third in the league, but their reward for winning the English title has been to find themselves in an even more challenging group.
“Our aim is to improve on last season and at least get out of the group, but in this group, getting to the second stage is not going to be easy,” Mancini said. “For a second year we are in the toughest group, but we know we are also a strong team.”
Jack Rodwell is available for selection if necessary, Maicon and Micah Richards will not be fit in time, and Mancini is undecided about whether to bring Joleon Lescott back into the side after preferring Matija Nastasic in Madrid.