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The fight of Europe’s elite

The fight of Europe’s elite
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Real Madrid need to overcome their biggest crisis since the arrival of Jose Mourinho as coach just over two seasons ago as they prepare to kick off their Champions League campaign at home to Manchester City on Tuesday night.

The Spanish Primera Liga giants have arguably the toughest group in the competition, having been drawn to play the English, German and Dutch champions: Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax and they kick off against big-spending City in the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real go into the match on the back of their second Primera Liga defeat of the season, 0-1 to Sevilla Saturday night. The defeat left Madrid eight points behind FC Barcelona in the race for the title and led to Mourinho producing harsh criticism of his players, complaining that at the moment he ‘doesn’t have a team’ while questioning the will to win of much of his squad.

Mourinho has so far refused to comment about Cristiano Ronaldo, who has provoked anger among Madrid fans after saying he was ‘sad’. Ronaldo was poor Saturday and it will be interesting to see the reaction of the Madrid fans on his return to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

The Madrid coach will almost certainly make some changes to his starting 11 with Fabio Coentrao, suspended in the Primera Liga, replacing Marcelo at left back and Luka Modric coming in for Mesut Ozil in the attacking midfield role.

Karim Benzema could also be in with a chance of replacing Gonzalo Higuain in attack after Higuain missed several chances in Sevilla, although Benzema has also been struggling in front of goal in the opening matches of the season.

Former Madrid youngster, Javi Garcia and former Barcelona midfielder, Toure Yaya will almost certainly make the line up.

City coach Roberto Mancini has been accused of being over-conservative in some away matches in Europe and it will be interesting to see if his side go for an away win or look to settle for a point.

Meanwhile German champions Borussia Dortmund take on Dutch supreme Ajax to set up another mouth watering clash in group D, ‘the group of death’ encounter.

Indeed, it was City’s presence, as much as that of Dortmund and Ajax, that prompted forward Cristiano Ronaldo to suggest his Real Madrid team had been drawn in ‘the most difficult and most competitive’ group.

‘In my opinion, and I am sure the opinion of most people, it is the most difficult group and the most competitive,’ Ronaldo said.

And there is the challenge for City. The feeling remains that the two Spanish superpowers still have the rest of the continent at arm’s length despite neither reaching last season’s final. Mancini believes City are as well-placed as any to bridge the gap.  ‘There are other teams better than us,’ said Mancini.

There will be high expectations in Malaga’s La Rosaleda Stadium when the home side makes its debut. The fans will want to make the most of their European adventure against Zenit St. Petersburg.

Meanwhile in group A heavy spenders PSG will look to show their strength in Europe.
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