Patrick Vieira believes Manchester City can progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League despite being drawn in the 'group of death'.
Group D looks a throwback to the days of the old European Cup - it will pit the English champions against the champions of Spain, Germany and Holland.
And after Roberto Mancini's men were drawn against Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund, Vieira, City's director of football development, admitted: ''You can't get much worse than that, it's a really tough group, the hardest group of all of them.''
Yet Vieira believes that City, who failed to get out of the group phase last season, can progress and even go all the way to the final at Wembley next May.
''When you look at the football the prospect is really exciting. The players will be excited to play Real Madrid - the first time Manchester City will ever have played Real and the fans will love it to play them and Dortmund and Ajax.''
''I believe we learned a lot from last year, and I think if we can get out of the group stage you never know where we can go.
''I think Chelsea was a fantastic example, nobody believed they could win the Champions League and they went on and did it and as a football club we just need to believe in ourselves and see what happens.
''But we can be confident of getting to the next stage. Last season was the first time the club has been in the Champions League so we need to learn, to improve.''
The group will see Mancini having to pit his wits against Jose Mourinho, who succeeded him at Inter Milan and went on to land the biggest prize in club football. The first meeting will be on the first day of the tournament, at the Bernabeu on September 18.
Vieira played under the Real Madrid manager in Italy and says he has few equals.
Vieira added: ''I played under Jose Mourinho at Inter and when you look at his record as a manager you have to put him up there with the best - if not the best - because of his record of what he won as a manager.''