As City prepare for Real Madrid, Match of the Day and City TV commentator Alistair Mann looks ahead to the Blues’ first ever trip to the Bernabeu…
When City arrive at Real Madrid’s iconic home on Tuesday evening it will in many ways mark the culmination of an astonishing journey.
The English Champions will go toe-to-toe with the most successful club side in European Cup history and it’s worth remembering that just over 13 years ago they were minutes away from the unthinkable prospect of a second successive season in the third tier of the English game.
While most supporters turn to their grandparents for information regarding their favourite club’s lowest point, City fans need only to ask older siblings, while most others actually witnessed it themselves.
As they prepare for this inaugural meeting with Real Madrid, the contrast between then and now is perhaps most easily appreciated as this very week in 1998 City’s loyal followers had a very different engagement – they were on their way to Moss Rose to watch the club’s first ever meeting with Macclesfield Town.
Like almost all the clubs the Blues visited that season, the hosts were preparing for their biggest ever crowd. The 6,381 attendance that day was actually 300 more than the official Moss Rose capacity - a temporary stand had been erected in readiness for the City’s arrival.
Though a variety of European restrictions will reduce it for Tuesday night’s game, the Bernabeu Stadium can now boast a capacity in excess of 85,000
Of City’s other two Group D opponents, Dortmund’s magnificent Westfalenstadion can also house in excess of 80,000 and though the Amsterdam Arena’s capacity is around 30,000 less, it is still regarded as one of the most stunning sporting venues in the world.
In truth, though in footballing terms the draw appears to have been unkind to City, it’s certainly opened up some unforgettable experiences for the Blues’ fans - he same supporters who 14 years ago stuck loyally to their team when the Club needed them most.
Indeed, in the equivalent weeks to City’s current visits to Madrid, Amsterdam and Dortmund, supporters in 1998 were off to Lincoln, Darlington and, of course, Macclesfield.
Of those Blues who will arrive in the centre of Madrid and stand in awe of the majesty of the home of the nine-time European Cup winners, many will be able to reflect on those visits to Moss Rose, Sincil Bank and Feethams.
You’ll be able to spot them easily too as they’ll be the ones pinching themselves!