Manchester United and Manchester City both face crucial Champions League ties tomorrow, as they look to progress to the knock-out stages of the prestigious competition.
United face an away trip to Basel after a difficult week for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, who were knocked out of the Carling Cup by Crystal Palace before restoring some pride with a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa in the league on Saturday evening.
City on the other hand are in impressive form, building on a snatch-and-grab victory over Arsenal at the Emirates in the Carling Cup to set up a semi-final tie against Liverpool, before outclassing Norwich in the Premiership over the weekend.
However the situation in Europe is very different for the country’s two top clubs, with City struggling to find form and facing a tricky fixture against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night at the Etihad Stadium.
David Silva was bullish about his team’s chances of progressing in the continent’s premier club competition, stating the need for the team to believe they can win the trophy.
“The UEFA Champions League is currently where we want to be and the level we have been aiming for,” said the Spanish play-maker.
“Last season was a good season for us. We won our first trophy for 35 years and qualified for the Champions League, claiming a place among the best teams in Europe.”
“We are up there with the elite now and this is enabling us to attract winners. These players know how to win, must win and accept nothing less.”
“Winners don’t believe in fate like others do. They simply cannot accept defeat. We need to improve upon what we have achieved already and keep progressing as a team.”
“Of course you have got to do well in the Champions League and we should aim to win it. Why not? I don’t think that is out of the question,” claimed Silva.
However City need to defeat their German opponents, and hope that Napoli do not win at Villareal if the club are the progress to the knock-out rounds for the first time in their history.
In the other half of Manchester, fans will be hoping that the Red Devils can avoid defeat against Basel to secure their route into the last 32.
Luis Nani, United’s Portuguese winger, claims that the club should hold no fears on their travels to Switzerland.
“We are used to this kind of pressure, we have enough experience to go to Basel and win.”
“Manchester United have been in this competition for many years. We have the spirit, experience and mentality to win this game.”
“A situation like this brings the best in the team, it will make everyone in the side concentrate.”
“We are much better than them but we missed a lot of chances. We let them score two goals when they did nothing,” concluded Nani.
Both clubs will be desperately hoping not to lose out on a place in the next round of the Champions League, but only one of them will make it to the 4th round of the F.A. Cup as the two teams were drawn to face each other in the 3rd.
The fixture is set to be played on 7/8 January at the Etihad Stadium, where Manchester United will be looking to avenge their 6-1 drubbing at the hands of City the last time they met.
Wayne Rooney has been nominated for the FIFA Goal of the Year award for his stunning overhead volley scored in the Manchester derby last season, although the striker is not guaranteed a place in the national squad for this summer’s European Championships.
Manager Fabio Capello stated that he was awaiting the verdict of the former Everton forward’s suspension appeal at a hearing on Thursday before making any decision.
“I need to wait and see how the appeal goes this week. I hope Rooney will be there [at Euro 2012).”
“The sentence, 3 games, was too much for me and I hope the appeal will help us reduce the sentence.”
“I hope they understand our lawyer, what Rooney says and what I will say at the committee.”
City manager Roberto Mancini has had to confront indiscipline with his own striker Mario Balotelli this season, who he initially supported in the wake of the Italian’s sending off during the draw at Liverpool.
However, Mancini has changed tact upon reflecting on the incident, calling for ‘Super Mario’ to show more maturity in his game.
“Mario should pay attention and he should be clever. I can do nothing, only he is on the pitch.”
“He should pay attention and think only about football. I think he made a mistake only for the first foul when he took the first yellow card. Then he should not take any risks.”
“He is more mature this season clearly, but in my opinion if Mario was on the pitch in the last 20 minutes we could have won the game.”
“It is important Mario understands we need him as a player on the pitch.”
A big week awaits both clubs on the European front, who will be hoping to avoid crashing out of the Champions League, but also looking to see improved professionalism from their star strikers.