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Manchester City add to Mourinho's Real worries

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Stoke's Jon Walters is left remonstrating with his team-mates as Manchester City's Javi Garcia celebrates scoring the equaliser on Saturday

Stoke's Jon Walters is left remonstrating with his team-mates as Manchester City's Javi Garcia celebrates scoring the equaliser on Saturday

Stoke's Jon Walters is left remonstrating with his team-mates as Manchester City's Javi Garcia celebrates scoring the equaliser on Saturday

However flat Roberto Mancini was feeling after his side's draw with Stoke, he will have had his spirits lifted by the current malaise engulfing Jose Mourinho, whom he faces at the Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow night.

"What worries me at the moment is that I don't have a team," said the Real Madrid coach, who saw his side slip to 10th in La Liga after defeat by Sevilla. You have to go back to 1974 for the last time a team started the Spanish season with one win, one draw and two defeats and went on to win the title, and only one side managed it before then.

Mourinho took two players off at half-time in his side's second defeat of the opening four games but said he could have hooked seven. Asked if he thought his team had had a bad first half, he replied: "Just the first half? You are being nice. It was bad from the first minute to the last.

Mentality

"I changed two players at half-time but I could have changed seven. It is one of the things that you should be allowed to do -- change more players. We don't have the concentration and we don't have the mentality to suffer for results. My team played well against Barcelona (in the Spanish Super Cup) but in no other game have they performed.

"A lot of the players' heads are not properly committed and concentrated on football... but I am the coach so I must take full responsibility."

Real Madrid have problems at both ends of the pitch as the Champions League first group game against Manchester City approaches. Up front, Karim Benzema has not scored since last season, firing blanks throughout the European Championship, pre-season and the start of the new season.

At the back, they continue to concede the kind of goals Mourinho's teams seldom do, with a basic failure to defend set-pieces at the heart of many of those conceded.

"We cannot do any more, or any better work on the training ground on dead-ball situations," Mourinho said. "Every player knows what his job is. Every player knows his responsibility. We have the graphics for the players, we work with them... and then in the very first minute of the game we concede from a corner."

Mourinho's players have vowed to put their awful league form behind them tomorrow night. Defender Sergio Ramos said: "It is strange that after just four games the manager is as unhappy with us as he is and we just cannot get our heads up. We have to do that before the game against Manchester City, which is so important."

Roberto Mancini isn't without his own headaches, with the City boss determined to give Sergio Aguero the maximum possible time to prove his fitness after admitting the Premier League champions face their toughest possible test in the Bernabeu.

Aguero, City's 30-goal top scorer last season, has been sidelined with a knee ligament injury since the opening weekend of this campaign and Mancini had warned the former Atletico Madrid striker he had to appear against Stoke on Saturday in order to challenge for selection against Real.

Aguero has trained for the past three days, however, and Mancini admits he is still in contention to face the Spanish champions in the Group D opener.

"We have two days," Mancini said. "He (Aguero) has another two days working with the team, so I think he can have a chance. He will travel with us. He worked with the team in the last three days, but we didn't want to take any risks on Saturday. But maybe, for Madrid, he will be ready."

Mancini admits that, despite City's recent growth under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, they cannot compete with Real's illustrious history and are not yet ready to claim centre stage with the Spanish giants.

"In this moment, no," Mancini said. "I think we have good players and we are working for this. We want to improve but we can't say this now. It will be a fantastic game, for us though and a fantastic moment for everyone at the club."

City's debut campaign in the Champions League ended with a group stage exit last season, despite Mancini's team amassing 10 points in a group containing eventual runners-up Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal.

Having been paired with Real, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax -- the champions of Spain, Germany and Holland respectively -- in this season's competition, City face another daunting challenge in order to reach to knockout stages. But Mancini believes that this game against Real poses arguably the greatest challenge of his time as City manager.

"When you play Champions League, every team is a top team, every game is difficult," he said.

"But if you play against Real or Barca, you are up against 100 years of history. They have won everything, so I think it will be difficult.

"But there can be incredible moments in the career of every player and this will be one of them because we play against a team with a history of 100 years."

(© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent