City hoping to see off both Uefa and Villa
Manchester City are considering launching a legal fight over Uefa's Financial Fair Play (FFP) sanctions which have overshadowed the club's chance of taking a huge stride to the Premier League title by beating Aston Villa tonight.
City risk making the punishment even more severe if their indignation about the governing body's decision to impose sanctions similar to those handed out to Paris Saint-Germain leads them to appeal.
They would have been willing to accept a more modest penalty than that given to the French club having produced audited accounts which saw them narrowly pass the FFP test in February.
Instead, they face a fine of around €60m (£49m) over three years and a cap to ensure that next season's Champions League squad wage bill does exceed this season's.
City will not find the fine damaging because the £49m is excluded from the spending which forms part of future FFP calculations. Effectively, that means their Abu Dhabi owners can pay it directly.
Keeping wage levels the same as in the last financial year – another of the sanctions – is also helped by the fact that the pay-off for previous manager Roberto Mancini and his substantial staff were included under "wages" for 2013. That figure would automatically have been reduced for this year anyway.
But the reduction of City's 2014-15 Champions League' foreign player component by four will be more biting.
It will make the English component of the squad far more important to Manuel Pellegrini, at a time when City are preparing to lose Gareth Barry, Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards and Scott Sinclair from their payroll.
The importance of James Milner and Jack Rodwell increases, and Pellegrini may need to bring home-grown players back to bolster his squad.
It was unclear last night whether the £16.3m fine which City must pay to Uefa next year will affect their spending on wages under new Premier League FFP rules. FFP expert Ed Thompson said that it may limit City, who are only allowed to increase wages by £4m next season, unless they increase their revenue to cover a rise beyond that. City's punishment comes as they seek to move closer to a second Premier League title in three years tonight.
They may have to face Villa at the Etihad Stadium without Sergio Aguero, but Pellegrini expressed the hope yesterday that the Argentine striker might be fit to face West Ham in the last league game of the season on Sunday, which City will go into needing only a draw if they can beat Villa.
The Chilean insisted he had not watched Crystal Palace's extraordinary comeback against Liverpool on Monday, which left the Anfield club's title hopes in tatters, but said that there was a warning for his players in the 3-3 draw. "Always it's a good lesson for everyone," Pellegrini said.
"No-one knows what will happen in football – that's why it's the most important sport. It depends on a lot of things, not just what you can do. Liverpool were winning 3-0 but the score changed. It's not just a lesson for this moment, football is always the same."
Pellegrini, who has Yaya Touré fit, predictably refused to respond to Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers' claim that City – who have managed only one five-game winning run this season – may struggle to move beyond the three successive victories which Saturday's win at Everton marked.
"I don't have any observations on what other managers said," he said.
"They have an opinion and I respect them. We are not thinking about five in a row – we just need to win the one game on Wednesday first against Aston Villa."
Pellegrini, who refused to discuss the FFP issue, admitted that he could not be sure that this side would not struggle for a win as they did in the last-minute draw they scraped against Sunderland last month.
"It's impossible to be sure. We don't know what can happen in any game," he said. "Maybe with that point [against Sunderland] we are able to win the title. We are going to have a difficult game and I hope the whole squad is ready."