MADRID - Real Madrid go into their Champions League tie against Manchester City in the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday full of doubts after an indifferent start to their La Liga campaign.
The opening clash in a strong Group D, that also includes Dutch champions Ajax and Bundesliga winners Borussia Dortmund, will be crucial for both sides' aspirations to be crowned the continent's top side this season.
Madrid are beaten semi-finalists in the past two years while City disappointed in their first ever appearance last season going out in a group won by Bayern Munich, the eventual runners-up and semi-final victors over Madrid.
City's only European triumph to date came in the 1970 European Cup Winners Cup, but on the back of their first English league title in 44 years, nights like Tuesday in the Bernabeu mean they can finally aspire to challenge sides at the top of European football.
The 1-0 defeat at Sevilla on Saturday left Madrid with four points from four games, their worst La Liga start since the 2001-02 season.
However, that year Vicente del Bosque's side had the same points haul from the same number of games before going on to win the club's ninth and last Champions League title, beating Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 in Glasgow.
The obsession of winning 'la decima', or the 10th title, has consumed the club ever since and coach Jose Mourinho will eventually be judged on whether he is able to deliver.
Real's poor league start already puts them eight points behind rivals Barcelona and has set the alarm bells ringing for the Portuguese coach.
"More then the points difference I worry about my team and the fact that since the start of the season we have only played well in the Super Cup against Barca, a little bit against Valencia and a little bit against Granada. At this moment I have no team," he said.
City drew 1-1 at Stoke on Saturday meaning they remain unbeaten in the Premier League and it was an ex-Madrid player, Javi Garcia, who got the equaliser on his debut.
Garcia, a deadline day signing from Benfica for £16 million, started his career at the Bernabeu and will be keen to play some part on Tuesday.
"The first objective is to fight for the Premier League, because after so long without success, winning that title has excited the fans again, but it is true also that we have to something to prove in the Champions League," he said.
City coach Roberto Mancini has concentrated on the dynasty he hopes to leave at the club.
"It's clear that we don't have the history like Real Madrid but I think that Manchester City have won some trophies and we want to win more in the next 10 years," said Mancini.
Argentine striker Sergio Aguero, who was not risked at Stoke after a knee injury limited his start to the campaign, has a good chance of playing in the city where he made his name at Atletico.
Mourinho will have a full squad to choose from and may prefer Luka Modric ahead of Mesut Ozil or Angel Di Maria after neither impressed and were replaced at half-time in Seville.
The Portuguese coach will also have to decide to start with either Karim Benzema or Gonzalo Higuain in attack -- the latter has three league goals, and started in three out of four games ahead of the Frenchman who is yet to score for the club this term.
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