Tuesday 20 November 2012
Manchester City may have it all to do to keep their slender UEFA Champions League prospects alive, but striker Sergio Aguero has not yet thrown in the towel, saying: “We should never give up.”
With two points from four Group D matches, nothing short of a win at home against Real Madrid on Wednesday night will suffice for Roberto Mancini’s side to avoid missing out on the knockout stage of Europe’s elite club competition for the second year running.
"We should never give up – where there’s a will, there's a way"
However, if anyone epitomises the never-say-die spirit that will be required at the Etihad Stadium it is Aguero, whose added-time goal on the final day of last season ensured City became Barclays Premier League champions for the first time.
“We should never give up,” Aguero told the club’s official website. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? Of course, it’s harder now because we’re not just relying on ourselves but also on the other teams’ results.
“What we mustn’t do is leave the pitch with any regrets and be content knowing that we have given our all. This club deserves nothing less and our supporters deserve as much, too.”
As they seek to avenge their 3-2 defeat at the Bernebeu Stadium City have rediscovered their cutting edge up front, with Aguero and Carlo Tevez each having scored twice, to complement David Silva’s opening strike, against Aston Villa on Saturday.
Real Madrid warmed up for their first trip to City with five goals of their own as they beat Athletic Bilbao 5-1 in the Liga on Saturday.
Striker Mario Balotelli, who, like Aguero, is in the running for the FIFA Ballon d’Or Award, is doubtful for the match with a back injury, while Gael Clichy is almost certainly out after suffering an ankle injury against Villa.
Midfielder James Milner could return from a hamstring injury but Jack Rodwell, who has a similar problem, is unlikely to feature, while Micah Richards (knee) and centre-back Kolo Toure (ineligible) miss out.
Provisional squad: Hart, Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Maicon, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Clichy, Nastasic, Milner, Nasri, Garcia, Barry, Silva, Y Toure, Evans, Sinclair, Dzeko, Aguero, Tevez, Balotelli.
UEFA Champions League Group D fixtures
Ajax v Dortmund
Manchester City v Real Madrid
Arsenal must do without Theo Walcott when they welcome Montpellier to the Emirates Stadium for a UEFA Champions League group fixture that could secure their progress to the Round of 16.
Walcott injured his shoulder during the Gunners’ 5-2 north London derby victory against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday and has been ruled out of the Group B match, along with left-back Andre Santos, who has an abdominal strain.
"It is important on the back of the Tottenham game that we put in another good performance and show a resolute attitude"
“We have to scan [Walcott’s shoulder] today and see if there is no damage,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. “It should be short-term.”
The positive news for the Gunners, who are aiming to defeat French opposition on home soil for the first time in the competition, is the return of full-back Kieran Gibbs and forward Gervinho to the squad.
Gibbs has been out of action since suffering a thigh injury against West Ham United on 6 October, while Gervinho damaged his ankle against Queens Park Rangers last month. Longer-term absentees Abou Diaby (thigh), Tomas Rosicky (Achilles) and Lukasz Fabianski (ankle) remain out.
Arsenal, who beat Montpellier 2-1 in the reverse fixture in September, will qualify for the knockout stage with victory, should Schalke beat Olympiacos at home.
Montpellier, who have not won in four matches and were held to a 1-1 draw by Valenciennes at the weekend, are struggling for form this season. The French champions lie 15th in Ligue 1 and are bottom of Champions League Group B with one point from four matches, but Wenger is not taking another win for granted.
“We do it step by step,” said the Frenchman. “First of all we want to qualify, then try to top the group. Let’s just win the game. It is important on the back of the Tottenham game that we put in another good performance and show a resolute attitude. If we produce a quality performance then we will win the game.
“[Beating Tottenham] was an important win and it’s a good basis to build on and go to the next game with a stronger belief, even more united and more determined to play our game.”
Provisional squad: Szczesny, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Sagna, Cazorla, Arteta, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski, Giroud, Mannone, Jenkinson, Arshavin, Coquelin, Ramsey, Chamakh, Djourou.
UEFA Champions League Group B fixtures
Arsenal v Montpellier
FC Schalke v Olympiacos