Belfast Telegraph

Pellegrini eyes European glory

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes his team can still win the Champions League this season.

The Barclays Premier League champions have again made an underwhelming start in the competition, collecting just two points from their opening three games in Group E.

They are already seven points behind group leaders Bayern Munich and can ill afford to drop more as they host CSKA Moscow at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

But while there is a danger City could fail to get out of the group for a third time in four seasons, Pellegrini is not entertaining negative thoughts and has even not ruled out a shot at glory.

The Chilean said: "Of course our target is always to try to win the Champions League. We must put in our mind that we are able to do it, that we have a good squad.

"Maybe there are five or six squads better than our squad or at the same level as our squad that also want to do it, but with a winning mentality and an ambitious mind, you must always think you can do it. I think we have time to prove it."

City will at least be aiming to improve on last season's effort when they reached the last 16 for the first time after two previous failures to get out of the group.

Pellegrini said: "This team are doing very well here in domestic games because in the last three years we won two Premier Leagues and one runner-up and won two cups also. So, you must add international games with the Champions League.

"Last year we did one stage more than the other years. I hope that this year we are going to continue improving."

City need to beat Russian champions CSKA at home to breathe some life into their campaign but Pellegrini is not treating it as if it is win or bust.

Anything less than victory would further complicate matters, and take City's destiny out their hands, but Bayern's dominance of the group thus far does suggest the battle for second spot will be close.

Pellegrini said: "I think it is a very important game but it is not a 'death' game because until mathematics can't fix (it), you can continue.

"We must win this game because we have just two points and we have three games to play and it is very important to have more points. But we will consider it not a final game but a very, very important game."

Pellegrini expects the issue to go down to the final round of fixtures, when City face a testing trip to the Stadio Olimpico to face Roma.

He said: "It will depend what the other teams do and it is impossible to be sure, but I think this group will be decided in the last game in Italy against Roma.

"We will see what happens. We are going to try to win our two games at home and see what the other teams do but I am sure this will be decided in the last game."

Pellegrini, speaking at his pre-match press conference, was dismissive of suggestions that his team might lack confidence.

He said: "I don't think so. Last year we were the club that qualified with the biggest amount of points (for a group runner-up) - 15 points. What happened this year in the three games of Champions League, we have time to arrange it and I am sure we are going to arrange it."

Midfielders Fernandinho and Yaya Toure also have their sights set on success in the competition.

Fernandinho, who was sat alongside Pellegrini at the Etihad Stadium, said: "I agree with the boss and this is a very important game for us and to go on in the Champions League as well.

"If we win this game, in the last two games we will have more chance to qualify for the next stage."

Toure is dreaming of retaining the Premier League crown and going on to further glory in the Champions League final in Berlin next June.

Speaking to Nissan, the official automotive sponsor of the Champions League, Toure said: "For us the perfect scenario is going to be both but we know it's going to be difficult - but we'll try to do it."

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