Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini knows his side’s faint Champions League hopes hinge on containing the “incredible” Cristiano Ronaldo.
The prolific Portugal forward will make his first return to Manchester since leaving United three years ago as Real Madrid visit the Etihad Stadium for a Group D clash.
It is a match City must win to retain any hope of qualifying for the knockout stages, but Ronaldo, 27, has scored a remarkable 165 goals in 162 appearances for Real, including the late winner when they met City at the Bernabeu in September.
Mancini said: “Ronaldo has a big impact on every game. One player that scores every game, one or two goals, is an incredible player. For this reason we should have more attention on him because he is a player that can change the game.”
City have just two points from their first four matches in the competition and are almost out of the reckoning. Real will have plenty of reason to push for a result themselves as they trail group leaders Borussia Dortmund by a point.
City striker Carlos Tevez, who played with Ronaldo at Old Trafford, said: “Cristiano is one of the best players in the world and he will play the way he always has done. He does not seem to feel pressure and there will be no added pressure just because he is back in Manchester.”
There has been much debate as to whether Ronaldo or Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is the best player in the world and the pair head the shortlist for this year’s Fifa Ballon d’Or.
Tevez, 28, is also an Argentina international team-mate of Messi, and said: “Any guy who gets 37 to 40 goals a season is one of the best in the world, but, if you push me, I am always going to go on the side of Messi.”
Real’s threat could come from other sources, with Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Angel di Maria expected to play, and Mancini added: “It is my opinion that Real Madrid is the best team in the world – with Barca – and when you play against Real, you play against 11 top players and we should pay attention to all the players.
“Football is fantastic because if you play against a top team like Barca and Real Madrid and you play well, you can win.”
A controversial 2-2 draw with Ajax in their last game all but condemned City to a premature exit for a second successive season. Even if they beat Real and Dortmund in their final matches they may not be able to progress.
But Mancini wants to take this game in isolation as a visit from nine-times European champions Real still makes for a great occasion. He said: “It was a difficult group when we started and now it is very difficult because we made some mistakes in the first two games, but we have another two important games and we want to play well.
“We don’t have a lot of chance to go through, but it is important for us to do a good job.”
To win, Mancini will need to outwit his opposite number Jose Mourinho, who will be selecting a team for the 100th time in the Champions League.
The pair have been perceived as rivals since Mourinho succeeded Mancini at Inter Milan in 2008, and Mancini said: “Congratulations to him. To do 100 caps in the Champions League at his age (49) is very important, but tomorrow is not Mourinho against Mancini – the players are more important.”
City should be buoyed by the 5-0 win over Aston Villa at the weekend which took them top of the Barclays Premier League.
“It is better to prepare for this game now we are on the top, but tomorrow is a different competition,” Mancini added.