Roberto Mancini admits that Manchester City require a "miracle" if they are to prolong their UEFA Champions League adventure.
A 3-1 defeat to Ajax on Wednesday has left the Premier League champions staring group stage elimination in the face for the second successive year.
City find themselves rooted to the foot of Group D, with just one point taken from their opening three fixtures.
Mancini concedes that his side will now require a huge slice of luck if they are to make it through to the knockout rounds, with the consolation prize of a place in the UEFA Europa League by no means guaranteed.
He told Sky Sports: "It's very difficult. There's one team with seven points, one team with six and one with three. It will be a miracle."
City were slow out of the blocks against Ajax and the opening goal of the evening came against the run of play, as Samir Nasri curled home.
The Dutch hosts responded in style - as Siem de Jong, Niklas Moisander and Christian Eriksen all found the target - and Mancini was forced to accept afterwards that he had got his tactics all wrong, saying: "It was probably my fault because I prepared badly for this game, I didn't prepare the players and I'm at fault for the defeat."
He added: "When you prepare for a game sometimes it is a different to what you expect.
"We played a bad game. We had a few chances to score but the players didn't really play well.
"They played better than us, they played better football.
Mancini asked his team to change from a back four to switching between three and five in defence, and Micah Richards admitted it is formation he is struggling to get to grips with.
"It's not something that we've worked on a lot, we're just used to a back four," he told Sky Sports.
"But the manager likes it and if we want to do well with it then we'll have to work harder on it.
"It's a hard system and I think the players prefer a 4-4-2 but he's the manager and we'll do what he says."
Richards also recognises that it would now be difficult to get through to the last 16 after losing a match they had desperately wanted to win.
"When we got drawn in this group we knew it was going to be a tough one," he said.
"We're disappointed today, we thought we would come here and get the three points but it wasn't to be.
"No disrespect to Ajax but we expected to come here and win, we'll look to the next game and see what we can do."
|Ajax||Team Statistics||Manchester City|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|6||Shots on Target||5|
|7||Shots off Target||6|
|63.5||1st Half Poss.||36.5|
|38.4||2nd Half Poss.||61.6|
Will Manchester City still qualify from Group D?