Belfast Telegraph

Champions League Juventus v Man City: Pellegrini ready to lead Man City out of the shadows

By Tim Rich

Manchester City may be playing in the shadow of the Alps, but it is the shadow of Barcelona that has dominated their thoughts as they prepare to face Juventus tonight.

That they have qualified for the knockout phase of the Champions League with two matches to spare is a considerable achievement.

However, Manuel Pellegrini is only too aware that on the two previous occasions he steered them to the business phase of European football's elite competition, City qualified in second place, were drawn against Barcelona, and promptly eliminated.

Should they overcome Juventus in Turin, City will be guaranteed top spot.

It may not guarantee their progress to the quarter-finals, but Pellegrini is aware the club needs to make statements in Europe and this would be one.

"Everyone criticises the club about its performance in the Champions League and it is important we have achievements in this competition," said the City manager.

"We qualified twice for the round of 16 and we were unlucky to draw Barcelona, but we have beaten Bayern Munich twice and we now have two games to win the group. That would be a big step forward."

Pellegrini argued that the key to City's progress in Europe was that they should play as they do in the Premier League, last Saturday notwithstanding.

The 3-1 win over Sevilla in Andalucia was an example of that. It was easily City's best Champions League display, eclipsing the two wins against Bayern - games that had little at stake for the Germans.

City's humiliation by Liverpool in their own stadium drew a rare show of public anger from Pellegrini but he said he had stopped analysing that game "on Sunday morning" and Juventus represented a fresh start.

Nevertheless, this is a squad so riddled with injuries that City will have difficulty filling their bench for tonight's game.

Pablo Zabaleta, Eliaquim Mangala, Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Wilfried Bony and Samir Nasri are all unavailable, although Silva may return against Southampton on Saturday.

Bacary Sagna, who said the events in Paris had affected his play against Liverpool, will start in Turin.

The key, as everyone at the club knows, is the fitness of Sergio Aguero.

"We have proved we can play without him," said Pellegrini.

"Without him, we qualified for the last stages of the Champions League, we were top of the table until Saturday and we made the next round of the Capital One Cup but, yes, it will be better for us if he stays fit."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph