Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Arsenal on Manchester City's mind ahead of Bayern Munich clash

Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini at yesterday's press conference
Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini at yesterday's press conference

MANCHESTER City boss Manuel Pellegrini admits he is preparing for tonight's Champions League Group D match at Bayern Munich with one eye on his side's next Premier League game against Arsenal.

City have already secured qualification for the knockout stages of the continental competition and while they can still move up a place to secure top spot in the section ahead of current leaders Bayern, the odds look stacked against them doing it.

The Blues then host Premier League table-toppers Arsenal, who they trail by six points, on Saturday.

And asked yesterday – at his press conference to preview the Bayern match – if he regarded the Gunners clash as the priority and was thinking of resting players tonight, Pellegrini said: "Against Bayern we will see the XI that starts.

"Of course, it was one of the most important things to achieve – qualifying for the next round (already) and not deciding that here in Munich.

"So we will see.

"Of course we are thinking about both things – firstly to do a very good game against Munich, which is very important for us, and also what will happen in the tough game we have against Arsenal on Saturday."

Certainly it appears goalkeeper Joe Hart will start against Bayern in place of Costel Pantilimon.

Hart, previously City's established number one, was dropped from the team in October after making a string of high-profile errors, which included mistakes in the 3-1 home loss to Bayern at the Etihad Stadium earlier that month.

If he faces the German side again tonight, it will be only his second appearance in the Blues' last 10 games.

It has been a worrying time for the England international this season, building up to next summer's World Cup.

And Pellegrini has no doubt about the potential significance of the contest at the Allianz Arena for Hart.

"For him it is a very important game," the Chilean said, before adding: "I am not thinking about the past, just thinking about the future. I trust in him."

When then asked about the danger of Hart's confidence having been damaged by his time out of the side and thus affecting his performances for club and country, Pellegrini looked to draw a line under the matter.

"I don't think this press conference is for talking about Joe Hart," he said.

"I have said in other weeks what I think about him and his performances. Today is not the day to analyse this."

Two City players who will not be featuring in tonight's match are midfielder Yaya Toure and full-back Gael Clichy due to suspension and a foot problem respectively.

Also injured are striker Stevan Jovetic and centre-back Matija Nastasic (both calf), but playmaker David Silva is back after missing six games because of a calf complaint of his own.

In what is the two sides' final Group D fixture, to leapfrog Bayern into first place City – three points behind –will have to better the 3-1 scoreline by which they were beaten by Pep Guardiola's men at home.

It looks a tall order to say the least, with defending champions Bayern, the 2012-13 treble winners, unbeaten in all competitions this season and heading into the game off the back of a 7-0 victory on Saturday at Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga, which they lead by four points.

City were completely outplayed by them for much of the contest at the Etihad Stadium.

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