Overcoming Ajax key to City hopes
Manchester City know there can be little room for error as they return to Champions League action next week. Roberto Mancini's men travel to Amsterdam for the first of two vital back-to-back games against Ajax anxious to secure a first win of their Group D campaign. City have collected just one point from their opening two matches against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund and may fear their second tilt at the competition ending like their first. A year ago City faced a similar situation having drawn and lost in their initial outings against Napoli and Bayern Munich. They went on to beat Villarreal twice in succession but still failed to reach the knockout stage despite ending the group with 10 points. Last season City, fresh from winning their first trophy in 35 years in the FA Cup, could put the disappointment down to experience, but expectations are higher this year. The club are now Premier League champions and even though their group is even tougher with three other domestic title-winners to face, there were hopes of a strong challenge. But being champions does bring with it difficulties, as midfielder Gareth Barry has noticed. The 31-year-old said: "It is a strange feeling having won the title last year and coming back. For a lot of the players it was the first title they had won, including myself. "It's important - you need that desire, that work attitude to produce what you have done again but you are playing against teams week in, week out who are desperate to beat the champions. "They are trying a bit harder than they were last season, they're playing the best team in the country. They are desperate to put one over you and that is what we are facing at the minute." City's situation might have been worse but for a superb display by goalkeeper Joe Hart when Dortmund visited the Etihad Stadium earlier this month. After both sides created numerous chances in a compelling first half, Hart's goal came under siege after Dortmund snatched the lead just after the hour. Hart produced a string of world-class saves and Mario Balotelli secured a point with a late penalty that at least put City above Ajax, who are bottom of the group after two defeats.
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