The position of comfort going into these matches is the low expectation game. Anything we get is a gift. When Kiki Musampa volleyed our winner in 2004/05 the thrill was in the surprise, the steal. A last minute winner tonight would be wonderful but it would represent the fulfilling of expectations, not their upturning. Which leads to an awkward sort of tension.
It's also the first home game of Mancini's new team, the home debuts of those new buys that haven't got injured, Mario Balotelli's first game in English domestic football, James Milner's first for City. This certainly feels like the start of something.
If I have one concern, it is that two of those new signings - Aleksandar Kolarov and Jérôme Boateng - are injured. I think that Mancini is likely to go with the same system we saw in Timişoara; that corset-narrow 4-1-2-2-1. For it to have any dynamism or fluidity, it needs athletic and incisive attacking full-backs. Kolarov and Boateng fit the bill perfectly - as they showed in the friendly against Valencia. Joleon Lescott and Pablo Zabaleta do not. The game last Thursday was a reminder why Lescott had never played full-back before for City (he doesn't know what to do with the ball in the final third), while Zabaleta - much as I love him - does not have the pace to be as incisive as he needs to be.
The team is fairly predictable. Balotelli probably won't start, meaning Carlos Tévez and David Silva dropping off Emmanuel Adebayor. James Milner should come into midfield to play as an alternating piston with Yaya Touré, leaving the last decision as Nigel de Jong or Gareth Barry in front of the back four. I'm going to guess de Jong, which is probably my preference; it would not spoil my evening's entertainment if he happened to mistime a tackle on Steven Gerrard.
This fixture has been 0-0 two of the past three seasons. The game last year was the most boring match I have ever seen. I'm not expecting much better tonight, but I'm going to say it will be settled by a set-piece. 1-0.