Belfast Telegraph

Man City v PSG Champions League live: Manuel Pellegrini eyeing golden farewell

City boss targets Euro joy before handing the reins to Guardiola

By Mark Ogden

Manuel Pellegrini is not prone to looking beyond the horizon, preferring instead to focus on the challenge staring him in the face, but the Manchester City manager allowed his gaze to stray when asked about the prospect of leaving the Etihad Stadium having won the Champions League.

With last week's quarter-final first-legs all ending with this week's return fixtures finely balanced, the prospect of City overcoming Paris Saint-Germain tonight and entering the semi-final draw on Friday without Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich is no longer as fanciful as seemed just seven days ago.

Real, trailing 2-0 to Wolfsburg ahead of tonight's second leg in the Bernabeu, are the most vulnerable of Europe's elite, but a 1-0 defeat against Atletico Madrid in the Vicente Calderon tomorrow will see Barcelona eliminated and Benfica host Bayern with only a 1-0 deficit.

So a path may be opening up for City to progress all the way to the final in the San Siro on May 28 and Pellegrini - who will be replaced by Pep Guardiola next season - insists that his team should not settle simply for a place in the last four this season.

"If we arrive in the semi-final it will be a very important achievement, but we will not be happy with that," Pellegrini said.

"We must play every game thinking that we are the best and that we can win. We want to arrive in the semi-final to try and win this competition."

With or without the three front-runners for the competition, Pellegrini clams that City have no fear of their potential opponents if they can eliminate PSG tonight.

"The most important thing is to have a focused mind," Pellegrini said. "After that, you will see who you must play. It doesn't matter against whom you must play. It is important to feel you have the quality and capacity to be at the same level.

"In the semi-final, you will play against a very good team, but first of all, it is very important to play with the confidence we did in the first leg against Paris.

"One of the most important merits of this team is to be involved in this competition. We have already won one cup (the Capital One Cup), but unfortunately we had a difficult month in February, so we couldn't continue fighting for the Premier League. We had a lot of injuries, but I trust the players who can play."

The personal satisfaction of taking City to the final, perhaps even winning the Champions League, cannot be overstated for Pellegrin. The Chilean continues to bristle at the controversial refereeing decisions which led to his Malaga team being eliminated by Borussia Dortmund in the 2012-13 quarter-finals, while his Villarreal team were a missed Juan Roman Riquelme penalty away from the 2006 final when they failed to overcome Arsenal in the semi-finals.

With Guardiola to come in next season, Pellegrini may be facing his last opportunity to win the competition.

"It is a very important game, but not for me or because of what will happen next season," Pellegrini said. "It is very important because we can achieve an important target which is the semi-final."

City will need more than luck on their side against a PSG team who showed in defeating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last month that they possess the counter-attacking quality to win at the Etihad.

But despite the threat posed by the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Angel di Maria and Lucas Moura, Pellegrini will send his City team out with their usual front-foot approach.

"We are a team prepared to score goals," he added. "If we prepare to play 0-0, we lose. You see the same team you have seen for the last two and a half seasons. They made mistakes last time against PSG but I believe they will play at the level they can."

Belfast Telegraph


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