Patrick Vieira has attributed Manchester City's struggles in the Champions League to their inexperience in Europe's premier club competition.
Roberto Mancini's side are facing elimination at the group stage for the second time in as many seasons, with an unlikely combination of results in the final two rounds of games needed to spare them.
Nevertheless, it is hard to shake the impression that a squad boasting the likes of Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and David Silva - all of whom enjoyed Champions League exposure before arriving at the Etihad Stadium - have underachieved significantly in continental combat.
Vieira feels the problem lies with City lacking a history of association with the competition, something that is part of the fabric when it comes to the European heavyweights they have fallen short against.
"I think people are really demanding but Champions League is a different level," said the 36-year-old former France international midfielder.
"The Champions League, it's not just (about) players - it's about a football club and how you grow up.
"It is new for us. We're learning and I believe we're going to get better. But it will take time."
And City's football development executive believes Mancini's charges can take heart from the breathtaking manner in which they clinched the Barclays Premier League title in May as they attempt another feat of escapology.
Without a win in their first four attempts, the Blues must beat Real at home and do likewise in Dortmund while hoping other matches fall in their favour.
"I believe that when the door is still open, however small it is, there is always going to be a chance," Vieira added.
"Of course we didn't help ourselves, didn't make ourselves any favours but the door is not completely closed.
"So it is going to be difficult and of course not so many people will believe that we can go through.
"But the door is not closed. It is still open and we have to believe after what happened last year and the goals we've scored in the last minute of games, that gives us hope.
"And if not, you have to play for the third place and play for (qualification to) the Europa League."