Mancini’s European dream

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has set his sights set on European domination on the eve of his side’s latest Champions League campaign — but stressed it is a long-term goal.

City begin their second successive season in the continent’s elite competition as the English champions having continued their remarkable recent progress by winning the Premier League last May.

That came after FA Cup success in 2011 brought the club a first trophy in 35 years, but while Europe might seem the next logical target, Mancini is setting no bold targets for this season.

Speaking at the Bernabeu Stadium ahead of his side’s mouth-watering Group D opener against Real Madrid, Mancini said: “If you drive a Ferrari you can win, if you drive a Fiat Cinquecento, probably not.

“In the past we have been working for this. I think we beat good teams but we have played together for two years and we needed time.

“I am sure we will arrive to win this trophy in the future. I do not know when, but I am sure because we are working for this. It is possible.”

Like Mancini, Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho believes City will eventually win the Champions League should they continue developing at their current rate.

Mourinho compared the investment made by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan since he bought the club in 2008 to that of Roman Abramovich at the Portuguese’s old club Chelsea.

He said: “I don’t think it is very different to Chelsea. Since Roman bought the club, (Claudio) Ranieri was the first coach, then I came and we won the first league, some cups and some more titles.

“Carlo (Ancelotti) then came and they continued to win and finally they won the Champions League.

“With City it started off with Mark Hughes, they started spending money and buying good players.

“Then Roberto (Mancini) came and he has done a very good job. He has created a great squad, the first cup then the first title arrived.

“I don’t know if it is this season or next season with Roberto, or with another person in the future, but normally in the direction the club is going, sooner or later they will win the big cup.”

City failed to progress beyond the group stages last season having been given a tough draw against Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal.

This year the assignment is even tougher with the champions of the Netherlands and Germany, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund respectively, also lying in wait as well as nine-time European champions Real.

Mancini said: “I think it was a good experience last year — we did a good group but it was not enough.

“I think the group will be stronger this year.’’

Much has been made of Mancini’s rivalry with Mourinho, but the Italian insists it is not a factor.

It is assumed tension existed between them since 2008 over the manner Mourinho succeeded Mancini as Inter boss but the men have rarely met.

The Italian said: “We don’t have a personal relationship. I met him two times for Porto against Lazio and I met him in Milan but I have only met him four or five times.

“I know him as a manager.

“I think tomorrow will be a good game, Real Madrid against Manchester City, but I think the most important thing will be the fantastic players on the pitch.”

City are yet to hit their stride domestically having been held to draws by Liverpool and Stoke and labouring to wins over Southampton and QPR.

But their performances better those of Real, who have won just one from four and were beaten at Sevilla at the weekend.

City striker Sergio Aguero, who was linked with a switch to the Bernabeu last season, appears to be winning his fitness race to play.

The Argentinian has been out for a month with a knee injury suffered in the Premier League opener against Southampton.

Mancini said: “Sergio is okay. He is not 100% because he didn’t play any games but his feeling at this moment is good and he has trained with the team for the last five days. He has a chance.”

City go into the game lifted by the news Spain playmaker David Silva has signed a new five-year contract at the Etihad Stadium.

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