Wake up from your European slumber, Man City
CSKA MOSCOW v MAN CITY
(Tonight, 11.55pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 111)
There's no room for any more stumbles.
With a solitary point from their opening two Group E matches, Manchester City must resurrect their flagging European hopes with a win over CSKA Moscow tonight if they wish to have a decent chance of progressing to the knock-out round.
They headed to Moscow with plenty going for them.
An emphatic 4-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Premiership last Saturday applied timely lubricant to a spluttering engine.
Sergio Aguero's superb performance, which saw him notch all four goals against Spurs, is bound to instil much fear in their Russian opponents.
CSKA will have no support at the Arena Khimki for City's visit - a price the club are paying for their fans' unruly and racist behaviour.
Manuel Pellegrini's men have to just turn up and deliver the goods.
It's easier said than done.
The Chilean announced his belief that his team will shine in Moscow, with the sort of conviction that sounded all too familiar.
Three consecutive seasons of Champions League football, during which they went into each campaign as potential winners, have seen them make it past the group stage just once.
Even then, the journey ended at the first knock-out round.
Pellegrini and, before him Roberto Mancini, has been let down by men who thrive on the domestic stage but struggle beyond English shores.
"We need our important players to make a difference," Pellegrini said, ahead of the CSKA clash.
At least he got that absolutely right.
City cannot afford to have the flashes of brilliance come only in spurts and starts, and the ammunition provided by only a select few in games of their choosing.
In the 1-0 away loss to Bayern Munich, only goalkeeper Joe Hart, skipper Vincent Kompany and playmaker David Silva emerged with any real credit.
In the 1-1 home draw with a Roma side led by an ageing Francesco Totti, it was Hart, Silva and Sergio Aguero who turned in displays deserving of any mention.
The fluidity and attacking power that characterise their English game need to be replicated on the continental front before they run out of excuses.
City have ample talent in their ranks.
It's a matter of getting the players to perform at the level they are capable of, consistently and across all platforms.
With the likes of Jesus Navas, Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko and Pablo Zabaleta at their disposal, City have no reason not to do well.
The Citizens lack the ruthlessness that only years of experience can hone, the edge that enables teams like Bayern Munich and Barcelona to brush aside opponents without batting an eyelid.
But it doesn't explain the mediocre record of eight losses in 20 Champions League matches.
There is only so much Pellegrini can do to prepare his team for another European assault.
The onus is still on the players to rise to the occasion.
And it's about time they start to do that.
"I always say when you want to win something, you need a team that know how to play. After that, you need to have your best performance. We have very important players and, of course, they must make the difference and I am sure on Tuesday we will see that."
- Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini, challenging his players
"As you can see, they are very weak this year. We are going to use that advantage against them. They are very weak in the defence, so we are going to do our best to work against that."
- CSKA Moscow striker Ahmed Musa, describing Man City