Belfast Telegraph

Pellegrini: Buck stops with me

Under-pressure Manuel Pellegrini accepts the blame for Manchester City's shortcomings lies with him - but insists the season is not yet over.

Pellegrini claims City's faltering campaign has not been a "disaster" despite recent failings at home and in Europe and is determined to pick his players up.

City were taught a footballing lesson as they were dumped out of the Champions League by a mightily impressive Barcelona side on Wednesday.

But that was merely the latest in a string of disappointing results, with a run of just three wins in 12 games having done considerable damage to City's season and Pellegrini's continued employment prospects.

The champions trail Chelsea by six points at the top of the Barclays Premier League having played a game more and the year looks set end in disappointment.

"I think that always it will be my responsibility because I always choose the starting XI, I choose the squad and I choose the way we like to play," said Pellegrini.

"I have a very good relationship with the players, always they try to give their best and we are not doing as bad as everyone has tried to demonstrate this year.

"We can do better - especially in both cups, that was not good for our team - but I don't think I have anything to complain about.

"Second position in a whole year I don't think is a disaster. We are not in eighth, ninth or 10th. Only Chelsea have done better than our team.

"We will try at least to keep second position and pressure Chelsea in the next nine games."

City were completely outplayed by Barca but, largely thanks to the brilliance of Joe Hart, kept the score to a flattering 1-0 and managed to avoid humiliation.

That might make the job of lifting morale a little easier, although Pellegrini recognises it will be no easy task.

He said: "It's always hard to pick your players up when you don't win, it doesn't matter which competition it is but we must have a strong personality and recover as quickly as we can.

"As I said to the players, we are still in this competition, we have nine games left and we must try to play well and try to do what we must for this team, which is to stay in second position and never give up, because in football anything can happen.

"We will fight to retain the title to the end, until it is mathematically impossible. The best way to do it is to play every game as a final, and we will see this year if we have the same mentality as we did last year."

City return to action against West Brom at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, but will do so without midfielders Yaya Toure and James Milner.

Toure suffered an Achilles injury during the defeat at the Nou Camp while Milner has had a troublesome knee for some time.

Milner was rested for the games immediately prior to both legs against Barcelona due to the problem. The 29-year-old could continue but Pellegrini believes further rest is required and that could also curtail his involvement with England in their upcoming games against Lithuania and Italy.

Pellegrini said: "Now we have the international break. Both will go away with their squads and see if they will play or not.

"I don't think Yaya will be able to do it, but we will see in the way he improves in the next day.

"With Milner I think he can play because he played against Barcelona, but I don't think it's good for him to continue playing because he has had the same kick on the same knee and unfortunately in all the games he received another kick on the same part. So we will see what will happen, but he can play."

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