MANCHESTER CITY striker Carlos Tevez has given tonight's clash with Real Madrid some added bite by dismissing Cristiano Ronaldo's claim to be the world's best player by insisting that his compatriot, Lionel Messi, is the No 1 player on the planet.
The 28-year-old has played with both players, giving him a rare insight into their respective qualities. Messi continued his prodigious form with two goals as Barcelona qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League with a 3-0 win over Spartak Moscow, who have been eliminated.
Messi, who was top scorer in the competition for a record fourth time last season, now has five goals from five games and 80 for the calendar year as he pursues Gerd Muller's 85 for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972.
He has also moved level with Ruud van Nistelrooy on 56 Champions League goals behind Raul, the competition's all-time top scorer with 71.
"It is only right if Ronaldo does believe he is the best in the world," Tevez said. "Any guy who gets 37-40 goals a season has a right to believe that, but if you push me I am always going to go on the side of Messi."
Yet Tevez knows Ronaldo is the player most likely to end City's distant hopes of a European revival.
"Cristiano is one of the best players in the world. He does not seem to feel pressure," Tevez said.
"I think that you have got to try to make sure he doesn't get in behind you. Once he gets a chance to run at you he is dangerous and he strikes the ball well too, so you have to try to stop him further up the field."
While City look to Tevez to assist in a morale-raising win, Mancini was again reflecting on Mario Balotelli's difficulties.
"Mario, outside the pitch, is a fantastic guy but sometimes he doesn't understand his job, and how his job is important for his life," Mancini said. "I am sorry for him because he has everything to be one of the best players in the world."
Balotelli has missed City's recent fixtures after being dropped against Spurs and then suffering a back injury while playing for Italy. He is unlikely to play tonight.