Roberto Mancini says Manchester City are enjoying a high point in their modern history as they prepare to meet Villarreal on Wednesday.
An expensively assembled squad has fired City to the top of the English Premier League table, and fans at Etihad Stadium are being treated to the spectacle of Champions League football for the first time.
City’s next foray into elite continental competition comes with a visit to Spanish side Villarreal, who are struggling this season in La Liga.
Italian manager Mancini, a Serie A winner as a player and coach, knows how much it will take for City to retain their standing at the top of the English game.
“This is the best moment for the club in the last 20 years, because we are top of the league, we are playing in the Champions League, we have a good squad,” Mancini said.
“But if you want to stay on the top for a long time we need to improve and we need to continue to work hard, but now we are getting confidence.”
City’s opponents on Wednesday have themselves become accustomed to featuring in the latter stages of European competition in recent seasons, and reached the last four of the Europa League last term.
They find themselves 13th in the Spanish top flight after a disappointing start to the 2011-12 campaign.
But Mancini remains wary ahead of the latest examination of City’s credentials at Estadio El Madrigal.
“It is my opinion that it is not easy to play against Villarreal, because Villarreal are a good team that is used to playing in the Champions League for a long time,” he said.
“They have played against Arsenal and Manchester (United) and done very well. Tomorrow we will be missing four or five players and I think it will be a hard game.”