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Tuesday 06 November 2012

Mancini's City drinking in 'last chance' saloon

Italian says City must beat Ajax to stay in Champions League; Arsenal seeking to avenge Schalke loss

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini holds court in training on Monday

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has said that his side's UEFA Champions League encounter against Ajax on Tuesday night represents their "last chance" of avoiding elimination in the competition.

"Tomorrow is the last chance for us"
Roberto Mancini

The Barclays Premier League champions lie third in the English top flight but are bottom of Champions League Group D with a point from their first three matches.

Only a home victory against Frank de Boer's side, who beat them 3-1 in Amsterdam two weeks ago, will keep alive their prospects of progressing to the knockout stages.

"We have this problem with some important players injured but when you have this problem, it is a time that all the players can put more on the pitch,” said Mancini, whose side were held to a goalless draw by West Ham United on Saturday evening. "Tomorrow is the last chance for us."

City are without Joleon Lescott, who has a back injury, James Milner and David Silva (hamstring), Micah Richards (knee), Jack Rodwell (groin), and Maicon (foot), while Kolo Touré is ineligible as he is not registered in the competition.

"We play Champions League for the second year, probably we need to work more for this,” added Mancini. "This time we again took a difficult group and you need to work hard. When you are in a group with Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Ajax, you can go out. It is possible."

One glimmer of hope for City fans is that Ajax were beaten 2-0 at the weekend at home to Vitesse Arnhem.

Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey (right) suffered a groin injury against Manchester United

Arsenal seeking Schalke revenge

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is looking for a positive response from his side against UEFA Champions League opponents Schalke 04 on Tuesday night, after Saturday's loss at Manchester United.

"It is not only the fact we lost the Manchester United game but the way we lost it"
Arsene Wenger

Schalke ended the Gunners' 45-match unbeaten home sequence in Europe with a 2-0 away win that took them above the Londoners at the Group B summit a fortnight ago.

And the 2-1 Barclays Premier League defeat at Old Trafford was compounded by a groin injury to midfielder Aaron Ramsey that has ruled the Wales midfielder out for the trip to Gelsenkirchen.

"[Our form] is a concern because we had a very promising start and of course we have gone through a difficult spell," said Wenger. "We want to respond to that and rectify that very quickly because it is not only the fact we lost the [Manchester United] game but the way we lost it.

"In terms of the group, the fact that we lost against Schalke means it is important that we win [in Germany] and finish the job well. We are still in a strong position in this group but of course we want to come out with a good result."

Arsenal have added defender Johan Djourou in Ramsey's absence, are also without goalkeepers Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski, left-back Kieran Gibbs and midfielders Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, while forward Theo Walcott is a doubt with illness.

Schalke, who lie second in the German standings, have won five of their six home matches in domestic competitions this season and were held to a 2-2 draw by Montpellier in the only home encounter of their European campaign.

They did lose their last league match, however, coming unstuck in a last-gasp 3-2 defeat at Hoffenheim at the weekend.

UEFA Champions League fixtures

Group B
FC Schalke 04 v Arsenal
Olympiacos v Montpellier

Group D
Manchester City v Ajax
Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund

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Key Points

  • Man City's home match against Ajax is their 'last chance' says manager Roberto Mancini
  • City bottom of UEFA Champions League Group B on one point after three matches
  • Arsenal without Aaron Ramsey as they look to avenge Matchday 3 defeat against Schalke