IN THE Premier League, Manchester City have proved adept at grabbing lifelines. But for their ability to win when it absolutely mattered, the two championships they collected might very easily have gone to Old Trafford or Anfield.
In the Champions League, however, the ropes have snapped almost every time City have reached for them and the one dangling in front of Manuel Pellegrini this morning is almost worn through.
Bayern Munich possess perhaps the sharpest edge in football. Should they cut their way through at the Etihad tomorrow night, the men from Abu Dhabi may start seriously looking for a new manager.
"As a team we never think our chances have gone," said Pellegrini after their win over Swansea City that was settled by Yaya Toure and was rather harder than Bayern's 4-0 rout of Hoffenheim on Saturday.
"Other teams have played badly in the groups and gone on to win the Champions League but we have made important mistakes, especially against CSKA Moscow.
"We know we must have the personality to be aggressive against Bayern from the beginning.
"We have to try to recover the ball as soon as we can with good pressing and then try not to lose it with easy passes. They must become a little bit tired trying to recover the ball and must not be fresh when they counter-attack."
His players might respond: "Is that all?" But in similar circumstances last December, City went to the Allianz Arena and won 3-2, not realising that another goal would have sent them through as group winners.
No such delicate calculations are required now. Realistically, they have to win - without the injured David Silva or the suspended Toure.
The hope must be that Bayern, who have not only qualified but won the group, will come to Manchester not overly bothered by the result.
In similar circumstances, Alex Ferguson would have blooded some of United's kids and risked a defeat. Pellegrini does not expect a similar favour from Pep Guardiola.
"Bayern never take it easy," he said. "Big teams never take one game more easily than the other. They must fulfil their obligation to win and we are going to see a very good Bayern."
Pellegrini insisted that his players often show their best when the clock is ticking and the lights are about to be switched off.
"As a team, we never think chances are gone - in the Premier League and Champions League," Pellegrini said.
"Maybe we are in a difficult position. If we don't play a good game against Bayern Munich, of course, we cannot continue in the Champions League. But I have trust in these players and I am sure we are going to play a good game and win the three points."
City have yet to win a game in this season's Champions League and they gave themselves an Everest to climb by losing 2-1 at home to CSKA Moscow in their last Group E outing.
It has been a tale of woe in Europe and Pellegrini admits that the frustration of this season's campaign to date can lead to "positive anger" being used as a motivational force against Bayern.
"I think so," Pellegrini said. "It is better not to make it bad, but a positive anger can be a good thing.
"We have two games more and the target is to qualify for the next stage. A lot of time, the teams who have played badly in the group have won the Champions League.
"We have made important mistakes, especially against CSKA Moscow, but it is important now to put on a good performance."
The victory against Swansea was perhaps the perfect dress rehearsal for the visit of the German champions, with Garry Monk's impressive team pushing City all the way having taken an eighth-minute lead through Wilfried Bony.
Bony's power and persistence troubled the City defence, with captain Vincent Kompany pushed to the limit by the Ivorian, yet it may prove useful preparation for 90 minutes against Bayern talisman Robert Lewandowski tomorrow.
Swansea denied City a comfortable cruise to victory, however, and their display forced the home side to find an intensity that has been clearly missing from their performances in recent weeks.
Toure raised his game, Samir Nasri stepped up a level and, ultimately, it appeared as though Swansea's ambition had served only to jump-start the champions into action.
Toure's winner, which followed Stevan Jovetic's first-half equaliser, was a glimpse of the midfielder's form from last season, with the player breaking into the penalty area before slotting past Lukasz Fabianski. (© Independent News Service)