Manchester City are fighting for more than slim chances of Champions League progression tomorrow night against Real Madrid.
Pride aside, Manchester City have little to lose tomorrow night. For while it is considered mathematically possible, few give them a chance of progression in their Champions League group.
Rooted to the bottom of their group with two points, even landing in the Europa League is no guarantee.
So when Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho saunter into town tonight for Real Madrid, the tie may not have quite the buzz or intensity it might have done had City secured a maximum six points from their two meetings with third placed Ajax.
Yet make no mistake, this is a major opportunity for City to make a statement to Europe's elite.
That even if it is too little this season, they are a very capable and exciting team, and they will be back better and stronger.
On paper the match-ups look mouth watering. And that's just Mourinho v Mancini.
Aguero v Ramos, Ronaldo v Kompany, Tevez v Pepe, it should be an incredible occasion, and lets not forget how close City came to upsetting the Spanish champions in the Bernabeu back in September.
City controlled the match, right through until the final five minutes, with goals from Aleksandr Kolarov and Edin Dzeko twice giving them the lead, with some excellent work from Yaya Toure in there too.
It was not to be as Madrid rallied, shaking off their own poor domestic form, with Ronaldo fizzing a late shot in that was simply too quick for Joe Hart, who let his frustration at defeat be shown in his post-match interview at the final whistle.
City fans will hope not to suffer the sight of Jose Mourinho sliding on his knees on their own turf, as he did when Madrid clinched the 3-2 victory.
Famously it will be Ronaldo's first return to Manchester, since leaving their rivals United in 2009. He will be desperate to mark the occasion with a goal, and Madrid will be intent on avoiding defeat and keeping pace with group leaders Borussia Dortmund.
So City can be the party poopers tonight, even at an event they are hosting. The acclaimed guests will not be in for an easy game, and this could be a truly memorable night for every fan in attendance.
Of course a win would mean more if City stood a strong chance of progression, but it can be a glorious one all the same. A win over Madrid will enable them to take some semblance of pride at their campaign, whatever happens from here on in.
It is their final home game of the competition, and a chance to repay their fans and go out on a high. Or who knows, if results go their way, a miracle could still happen.
Mourinho made some pretty disparaging and ill-informed comments ahead of the Bernabeu clash about City's lack of history, and fans will hope Mancini's men can take their Premier League form into the game and put a dent in Madrid's hopes.
And you know what, with the pressure off, we bet they will.
Will City win tomorrow? What do you think?
image: © marc_tacoma