Mark Hughes is warning that City will have to be on their mettle to progress beyond the group stage of this season’s UEFA Cup.
Tonight the Blues start their Group A games against FC Twente, with Steve McClaren’s side having already won their opening fixture when they beat Real Racing Club 1-0.
The Blues’ boss has warned all along that progress in this competition would be difficult with a high standard of teams already fighting it out, with the next stages seeing some Champions League sides drop into the UEFA Cup’s knock out stages.
He says, “They are all tough groups, there are strong teams throughout the competition. If we can get through the group then it could become really interesting, but first things first. They are all strong sides and we are under no illusions, it's not going to be easy and I think all the other teams accept that.
“We obviously want to stay in this competition as long as we can, if we can get beyond the group stages and into the latter stages then we will have a real go at it. The key, obviously, is to win your home games. Usually that's been enough from past experience, win your home games and try to pick something up away from home, then you'll be OK.”
Despite another British coach lining up in the opposite dug-out tonight, Mark still expects the game to be more of a cagey, tactical battle than the 100-mph fare often seen in the Premier League, and it’s a transition that he wants his side to get used to quickly.
“European football is still different,” he continues. “The Premier League demonstrates time and time again that the top teams can be beaten by the bottom teams as we have learned to our cost. We have seen it again with Newcastle this week as well.
“In European games that does not happen on such a regular occasions, the Premier League is a strong, physical league, but Europe is a different test. Teams will try to win the tactical battle and play counter-attack more often than not, so you have to be ready for the different problems they will pose.
“That helps your team to develop, as you get an understanding of what problems different oppositions can pose. You need to understand that quickly and then dictate to them.
“I'm sure Twente will give us due respect as well, I think they will have seen our home performances and seen that they can't be too open against us because we have the players to exploit that. You quickly understand what mentality teams coming to our stadium have and what their game-plan is. For us, it will be a case of recognising that early and making sure we do what we can to combat whatever they throw at us.”