Mancini calls on City to up their game
Soccer:Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini feels his team must improve quickly if they are to qualify for the Champions League knockout rounds, but believes they do have it in them to go on and win the competition.
City, beaten 3-2 by Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in their Group D opener on September 18, are looking to get their European season kick-started on tomorrow when they take on German champions Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad Stadium.
With Dortmund having begun with a 1-0 win over Ajax, the pressure is on the Blues to secure all three points if they are to avoid a repeat of their maiden Champions League campaign last term, which ended in failure to qualify from another difficult group.
While acknowledging the club are relatively inexperienced at this level, Mancini accepts there is a considerable weight of expectation on big-spending City to make major strides on the European stage, and he has stressed the importance of his players swiftly cutting out the kind of mistakes he felt allowed Real to come from behind to snatch victory against them.
The Italian is optimistic, though, that if City do manage to up their game and make it beyond the group stage, there is no reason why they cannot then go all the way.
"This is the second year for us in the Champions League and the second year that we got the worst group," Mancini said. "Like we have improved (over the years) in the Premier League, we need time to improve in the Champions League, but we don't have a lot of time - only five more games, and we need to improve quickly.
"We need to not concede easy goals to drop points like we did against Real Madrid. If we want to go through, we need to improve very quickly." Asked if he felt he was still learning about Champions League football on a personal level, Mancini - who guided City to the Barclays Premier League title last season and won Serie A three times as Inter Milan boss but is yet to claim a trophy in Europe as a manager - said: "I don't need to learn.
"The Champions League is a difficult competition, but football is the same. It doesn't change - it is still 11 players against 11. The problem is that you are always playing against the best team from another country and every game is difficult. I hope I can improve my record in the Champions League, and I think we have arrived at the time where we can win the Champions League."
City midfielder Jack Rodwell is fit for tomorrow's contest after missing two games with a groin problem, but full-backs Maicon (heel) and Micah Richards (ankle) are not yet ready to return to action, while centre-back Kolo Toure has not been registered for the competition.
It remains to be seen whether Joleon Lescott will be selected after he was dropped for the Real clash and once again did not feature in Saturday's 2-1 league win at Fulham. The England centre-half played a key role in City's title success last season, but is now in a more uncertain situation.
He has vowed not to "rock the boat" over the matter, though, and Mancini emphasised that Lescott is still very much a part of his plans. Asked if he had lost faith in Lescott, Mancini said: "He is one of the best defenders. But I have six or seven defenders and I made a different choice last week and in Madrid.
"Tomorrow I will decide again, but Joleon is an important player for us.'' Meanwhile, City striker Edin Dzeko, who scored in the Real game and netted the winner at Fulham, has dismissed any suggestion that he wants to leave the Blues. Every time I see a newspaper - for what seems like for a year or more - there is a story saying that I am leaving City or that I want to go," said Dzeko, quoted on www.mcfc.co.uk.
"I've never said any of that so the stories don't come from me - I've always wanted to stay at City and fight for my place and my motto has always been 'never give up'. I hope the City fans, who have always been fantastic towards me, have seen I can score some important goals for the team and that's what I want to carry on doing."