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Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini left baffled by CSKA denials

By TIM RICH

Manuel Pellegrini has backed the punishment handed out to CSKA Moscow for the racial abuse suffered by Yaya Touré and said he cannot understand why the Russian champions tried to deny it.

In the aftermath of the monkey chants directed at Touré during City's 2-1 win in Moscow last month and even last night, CSKA denied anything untoward had happened and claimed that the midfielder was the only one on the pitch who had heard the abuse.

Their punishment was to have part of their ground, the Khimki Arena, closed for their next Champions League fixture which since it is against Bayern Munich will not help Manchester City if they hope to win the group.

"The fans of CSKA made an important mistake," said Pellegrini. "As for the club, I don't know why they denied it at the beginning but Uefa acted and gave them the punishment they deserved. I hope we can leave it in the past but it is something for Russian fans to consider because they have a World Cup in their country."

Touré will once more form the pivot of Manchester City's midfield against CSKA, although Pellegrini thinks it unlikely he will be distracted by any reckless need to take revenge. The prize of overseeing City's first qualification for the knockout phases of the Champions League is far greater.

"Maybe Yaya can't forget what happened in Russia," he said. "But this will be a special match for him because Manchester City can go to the next stage. He will be only thinking about football."

CSKA Moscow would have been right to claim that not everyone on the pitch heard the taunts. Matija Nastasic, who was part of the Manchester City defence that night, said he was unaware of the furore until it appeared in the media. However, their defence that only Toure heard them was roundly rejected by a Uefa commission which ruled that CSKA Moscow should become the eighth club this season to have their ground fully or partially closed because of racial chanting.

It is highly unlikely there will be much chance of a repetition at the Etihad Stadium on Bonfire Night, not least because there have been only 500 tickets sold for the away end. Man City say their stewards will enforce the club's zero tolerance policy for racism that they employ at all home games.

It cannot fail to be a more testing examination of Costel Pantilimon's ability than Saturday's 7-0 massacre of Norwich which saw Joe Hart's understudy given precisely one serious shot to save, which may in any case have been going wide.

Pellegrini said that Hart had reacted well to his demotion, adding that he might even have welcomed the break.

"Joe is a professional player," said his manager. "For him it is also a good thing to have a rest after playing so many matches. Nobody wants to be left out."

Should City win, they will be guaranteed qualification for last 16 of the Champions League, an express aim of the club's owners which Roberto Mancini, for all his domestic success, failed to fulfil.

In the long term it would help improve the club's Uefa coefficient which determines in what pot they find themselves come the draw.

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