Manchester City’s Champions League fate hangs in the balance

Victory at Roma vital for Pellegrini who must plan without injured Aguero

Manchester City’s Stevan Jovetic, Edin Dzeko and Frank Lampard warm up during a training session for the game against Roma. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

Manchester City’s Stevan Jovetic, Edin Dzeko and Frank Lampard warm up during a training session for the game against Roma. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

 

A night in Rome may prove the defining moment of Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City career.

The demand from the club‘s owners is material progress in the Champions League. This means that after Pellegrini took the Sheikh Mansour project into the last 16 for the first time last season, the quarter-finals are this term’s target.

Yet this evening his team must beat Roma at the Stadio Olimpico and hope CSKA Moscow do not defeat Bayern Munich in Bavaria.

Asked if the match was going to be decisive for his future at the club, Pellegrini said: “No, I don’t think so. It‘s an important game and we all want to qualify but I don’t think what happens will have any link to my future. I never received any kind of pressure from the club. I think we will qualify but it has nothing to do with my future here.“

The vagaries of football make reading the runes of any manager’s future an imprecise science – especially when the side Pellegrini made Premier League champions – and claimed the Capital One Cup with – in his inaugural campaign have just won five consecutive league games to force them back into the title race.

Knockout game

Pellegrini must show he has the acumen to plot a route through for City. It will not be easy. Rudi Garcia’s team are second in Serie A and gained a draw in September’s encounter at the Etihad Stadium.

That display was a microcosm of City’s early-season struggles. When sides go at Pellegrini’s men with pace and invention the Vincent Kompany-led rearguard can be flat-footed and the defensive midfielders, Fernandinho and Fernando, fail to offer protection.

When the Plan A of attack allows goals at the wrong end and yields none at the opposition’s, Pellegrini’s Plan B is simply to keep on keeping on.

Only once in the Champions League has the approach worked: in the game against Bayern two weeks ago, when Xabi Alonso allowed in Sergio Aguero for a late equaliser and the forward scored again for a memorable 3-2 victory.

Roma know victory would take them through and are intent on taking the contest to City. Garcia said: “There’s no other option, we need to play for the win and nothing else. There’s no need to use the word ‘motivation’.

Although Kompany, David Silva, Stevan Jovetic and Fernandinho should be available, Pellegrini’s challenge is to qualify without Aguero, who picked up knee ligament damage on Saturday evening. The Argentinian has 19 goals in 21 appearances this term so he is a big loss.

City’s manager, Manuel Pellegrini, said that Aguero would be out for four to six weeks.

“Aguero’s absence is sad news,“ said Roma boss Garcia. “Great players like him should be involved out there. We know that Manchester City are a good side. It will be very tough but I’m sure we can do it.”

Edin Dzeko has vowed to fill the void left by the injured Sergio Aguero. Dzeko is not 100 per cent match-fit following a calf injury but said: “I’m back and I’ll do my best to try and score the goals and bring something good to the team.”

Guardian Service

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.