Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho has turned up the pressure on Manchester City counterpart Roberto Mancini, by questioning how the wealthy club can be set to go out of the Champions League at the group stages for the second consecutive season.
Mourinho, speaking ahead of the match at the Etihad Stadium, believes City - rooted to the bottom of Group D with two points from four games - will go out of the competition even if they beat Real on Wednesday and Borussia Dortmund in their final game of the group.
And the Portuguese, who has been linked with the City job in recent times, believes it is not "normal" that the Premier League champions would perform so poorly in Europe's premier club competition.
"I don't think it's normal when you go out in the group phase," Mourinho said. "I think they will go out, and that will be difficult for them.
"They can beat us tomorrow, because they have a team to compete against Real Madrid, and they can do the same against Borussia [Dortmund] - but eight points will not be enough, I think. So City will be the big team that is out."
Real escaped with a late, come-from-behind 3-2 victory when the two sides met at the Santiago Bernabeu last month, and was pragmatic enough to concede that the group could have gone so differently if City had held on that night.
He added: "This is a very difficult group. Real Madrid, Dortmund and City all want to win the competition. Other teams are in easy groups and that is the main reason why they have already qualified with ease. If City had won the first game against Madrid it would be a different history. We know every mistake we make will cost us a lot." While Mourinho's comments are likely to step up the pressure on Mancini a notch, the former Chelsea boss was unwilling to respond to questions about a potential return to the Premier League in the near future.
"I'm always happy to come back and play in England," Mourinho said. "[But] tomorrow I have a Champions League match. I am here to talk about tomorrow's match, not about myself."
At 49, Mourinho will become the youngest manager to oversee 100 Champions League matches when his side take to the field on Wednesday. Having won the competition on two occasions - with Porto and Inter Milan - he has a stellar record.
"Fortunately I have never been eliminated in the group phase and, therefore, the number of games per season has never been less than six," he noted. "I twice did the maximum of 13 games per season, and in four others I had 12 matches.
On specific memories, he added: "There are many, but I mainly remember the Manchester United-Porto game [at Old Trafford] that made us feel that we could be European champions.
"Also the Chelsea-Barcelona match where we won 4-2. The Inter-Barcelona semi-final, when Milan won 3-1 and in the second leg, the one I call the game of heroes at Camp Nou, when we were reduced to 10 for more than an hour is special because we were able to lead Inter to the final in Madrid."