Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insists Sergio Aguero has a chance of featuring against Real Madrid on Tuesday despite the Argentina striker struggling to recover from an ankle problem. Aguero sustained the injury in last month's 3-2 win over Southampton and did not feature in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Stoke after returning to training earlier in the week.
Mancini had suggested that Aguero needed to prove his fitness at the Britannia Stadium to have a chance of featuring in City's UEFA Champions League opener in Madrid. But despite leaving Aguero out of the squad for Stoke, Mancini said the striker is still likely to play in Spain.
Asked if Aguero might be involved against Jose Mourinho's side, Mancini said: "Sergio is one week working with the team and I think so."
After seeing City drop points in a second successive away match, Mancini admits his team, who failed to get out of the group phase in their first Champions League campaign last season, must improve in the Bernabeu. "Real Madrid is one of the best teams in the world and to play the first game away will be very tough, but at the same time it will be a fantastic game for everyone," Mancini said.
At least Mancini can take heart from the performances of his newboys at Stoke. Spain midfielder Javi Garcia was one of three players given their debuts and the former Benfica star scored a header to cancel out Peter Crouch's opener. Former Inter Milan right-back Maicon and winger Scott Sinclair also impressed and Mancini was satisfied with their performances.
"Garcia scored an important goal and had another chance," Mancini said. "He played well like Maicon. It was the first game for both of them but both players did a good performance."
Michael Owen, who has joined Stoke on a one-year deal after being released by Manchester United, was also given a brief run out from the bench for his debut. Stoke manager Tony Pulis admits the former England striker, 32, is not yet fully fit, but is sure he will feature on a regular basis once his conditioning improves.
"As soon as Michael's fit he will be involved because we need goalscorers in the team," Pulis said. "Michael's trained well over the last few days and he's really desperate to get going. He needs a lot more football. He's done a lot of work by himself but playing games is different to just running."
Stoke's aggressive playing style has often been met with criticism since their promotion to the Premier League, but Pulis warned his players not to try to change their style just because they are established in the top-flight.
"We've got better technical players but we still need to keep effort and organisation and there were times when we were giving it away too quickly," he said. "We worked so hard against one of the top teams in Europe and if you have a look at the players they've left out not even on the bench, it's a phenomenal squad and to compete you have to play as one."