Premier League champions Manchester City prepare for the biggest European night ever in the Etihad Stadium's history, when the nine-time champions of Europe visit. Roberto Mancini's side, for all the millions spent on recruiting top-class talent, are in danger of a second successive group stage exit from the Champions League. The only way they can hope to avoid that fate is to beat the champions of Spain - Real Madrid - at home.

Manchester City v Ajax

Where to Watch Live

Kick-off is set for 7.45 pm GMT and live coverage begins at 7 pm GMT on Sky Sports 2, Sky Sports HD 2 and Sky 3D. Live radio commentary is available on BBC Radio 5 live, from kick-off and real-time text updates are available on Gamecast via Soccernet.

Overview

City come into this game on the back of a morale-boosting 5-0 win over Aston Villa, at the Etihad, over the weekend. The champions will also be boosted by the fact their closest domestic rivals, Manchester United, slipped up in their weekend match, losing 1-0 to Norwich City at Carrow Road. That defeat means City will face Madrid as sole leaders of the Premier League and that may be a valuable mental edge.

That edge, and any others Mancini can grab hold of, may be vital because City's European form has been poor, to say the least. The English club were unfortunate, maybe, to be drawn in so difficult a group, but the fact they are now bottom and in very real danger of a group stage exit is their own doing. City were leading Madrid, in Spain, 2-1, up until the dying minutes, only to succumb to a quickfire double - from French striker Karim Benzema and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. They barely managed a draw at home to German club Borussia Dortmund and were then comprehensively outplayed by Dutch champions Ajax Amsterdam, both home and away, dropping three valuable points over the two matches.

A defeat against Madrid would not only confirm elimination but also heap immense pressure on Mancini.

Real Madrid

Madrid, meanwhile, are slowly returning to the all-conquering domestic form they displayed last season. Jose Mourinho's men warmed up for City by hammering Athletic Bilbao, last season's Europa League runners-up, 5-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu. A fit-again Benzema and the re-emergence of German international Mesut Ozil as a creative force can only be good news for the club.

The parallel between these two clubs is both have had slow starts to their domestic campaigns; Madrid more so than City. Mourinho's men are already eight points behind fierce rivals and league leaders Barcelona. The difference, though, is Madrid have kept their head above water in Europe. They were beaten in Germany by the Bundesliga champions Dortmund but the win against City and the confident hammering of Ajax away from home places the Spanish club in a reasonably strong position going into this game.

In terms of recent matches, both sides are unbeaten since 24 October, when they lost their respective Champions League matches. Since then, City have won three of five games played and Madrid four of six, with each club's remaining games ending in draws.

The pressure is on City to deliver a win - attack from the outset and try and push men forward. Unfortunately for Mancini, that is when Madrid are at their most dangerous. The pace of Ronaldo, Angel di Maria, Ozil, Benzema and the midfield talents of Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and Luka Modric will Vincent Kompany and co. are kept busy all through the evening.

Team Form

Manchester City

  • Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W W D D W
  • Last Match: Manchester City 5 - 0 Aston Villa
Sergio Aguero (R)

Real Madrid

  • Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W W D W W
  • Last Match: Real Madrid 5 - 1 Athletic Bilbao

Team News

City will likely be without French left back Gael Clichy, who injured himself against Villa. If the Frenchman doesn't play, he will be replaced by Serbian Aleksandr Kolarov. English internationals Joleon Lescott and James Milner are both still unavailable, which means Kolarov's compatriot, Matija Nastasic will continue in the centre of defence alongside club captain Kompany.

One big decision Mancini will have to make is to decide who plays at right back. To play Brazilian international Maicon would be an attacking sign and City do need to attack. However, the former Inter Milan defender isn't exactly the best defensive prospect in his position and with the threat of Ronaldo down that flank, Mancini might elect, at least initially, to deploy Argentine Pablo Zabaleta in that position and then maybe change it around later on.

The midfield pivot of Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry will continue and Mourinho will be wary of the Ivory Coast international's strength in the centre of the park. Toure was instrumental in setting up Dzeko's goal, City's opener, in the first game, was an example of what his bullying runs from midfield can do.

Up front, Argentinean strikers Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez are automatic choices, with Spanish playmaker David Silva certain to join them at the start. The fourth attacking place may be up for grabs, if France's Samir Nasri fails to shake off an illness. If he is unfit to play, Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko, who has been in good form of late, may start. Italy international Mario Balotelli is an option but given the debate surrounding his future at the club, Mancini may elect not to start him.

Mancini will also have summer signing Jack Rodwell available. However, the former Lazio boss cannot call on England right back Micah Richards, who may have been a good compromise between the attacking flair of Maicon and the defensive solidity of Zabaleta.

Probable Line-Up: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Kolarov; Y Toure, Barry; Nasri, Tevez, Silva; Aguero

Meanwhile, Mourinho has only two players unavailable through injury - Brazilian left back Marcelo and Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain. The rest of the squad is fit and available.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The big relief for the former Chelsea manager is that utility player Fabio Coentrao played the weekend's game without any problems. The Portuguese international was recovering from an injury that left the Spanish club without recognised left backs for a significant period. The loss forced Mourinho to play on-loan midfielder Michael Essien in that slot and although the Ghanaian did reasonably well, the side does have much better balance with Coentrao (or Marcelo) in that area.

Elsewhere, Mourinho is likely to field his strongest possible team, which means Spanish internationals Alvaro Arbelo and Sergio Ramos will take up the right back and right central defensive positions, with the Portuguese duo of Pepe and Coentrao in the left central and left back roles. Madrid's double pivot is likely to be Xabi Alonso and Khedira, with former Tottenham star Luka Modric and Essien on the bench for this one. Also among the substitutes will be Brazilian midfielder Kaka, who seems to be getting back to something like the form that led AC Milan to the Champions League crown a few seasons ago.

Up front, Ronaldo and di Maria will provide width, pace and incision, with Ozil playing through the centre and Benzema, who has three goals in his last three matches, playing the lone striker.

Probable Line-Up: Casillas; Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Coentrao; Alonso, Khedira; Ronaldo, di Maria, Ozil; Benzema