City can’t afford more slip-ups

Manchester City's struggle to transfer their Premier League form to the Champions League will come into focus again on Wednesday when they face Ajax Amsterdam knowing defeat would leave them in a precarious position.

After going out in the group stage last season, City's expensively assembled squad have failed to light the touch paper in this year's competition and occupy third place in Group D with a solitary point from their opening two games.

Manager Roberto Mancini could point to the fact his team have already faced the champions of Spain and Germany in the toughest of the eight groups.

But there will be no excuses if his side come home empty-handed from Wednesday's encounter with Ajax, who are bottom having lost their first two matches. For a team that has been hand-picked by a manager given almost infinite resources, City have underwhelmed in Europe's elite competition.

Since making their Champions League debut last season they have lost three of their four away games and went down 3-2 to Real Madrid last month in their first road trip of this campaign.

Mancini's principal headache will be deciding who to play up front after Edin Dzeko, who has been used mostly as an impact substitute this season, came off the bench on Saturday to rescue his team with two goals in a 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion. The Bosnian could feel aggrieved to be kicking his heels on the sidelines with question marks still hanging over temperamental Italian Mario Balotelli. Despite only starting twice in the Premier League and once in Europe, Dzeko already has six goals this season compared to Balotelli's one.

SUPERB FORM

Edin's been in superb form, not just in terms of goal scoring but at the end of last season and at the start of this season, coming off the bench or starting, he's been excellent, assistant manager David Platt told City's website. "People should be disappointed when they're left out but the reaction that you want is that if they come on they fight."

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