Manuel Pellegrini at a loss to explain City’s form in Europe
Defeat to CSKA Moscow left them with just two points from four games and bottom of Group E
Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero after a missed chance against CSKA Moscow at the Etihad Stadium. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Manuel Pellegrini admitted having no answers as to why Manchester City cannot perform in the Champions League after the 2-1 defeat by CSKA Moscow that leaves them relying on other results to qualify for the knockout stage.
Even if City beat Bayern Munich and Roma in their last two matches, they must hope CSKA do not do the same or the Russian champions will finish second in Group E.
Pellegrini said: “Of course we must try to find what happened with this team in Champions League. The mentality of the players, all of them are important players, so I don’t understand why they cannot play in Champions League. But we must review a lot of things to try to understand why we are playing (with) so low a performance.
“We have just played a good game here against Manchester United [in Sunday’s derby victory]. We have all our chances to win here at home and play a normal way but, when you give two easy goals in the first half and you really don’t play with the ball, it is very difficult to win.
“You can’t take anything positive. In Moscow we had a two-goal advantage and drew. Today we didn’t defend, didn’t attack. Now we must focus on the future and try and reach the knockout stages.”
Of Manchester City still being able to finish second in the group, Pellegrinisaid: “You have the mathematical option to qualify, you must fight for them. We must first try to play against QPR, then we have the international break and then we are going to try to qualify for the next stage. It is more difficult but it is not impossible.”
Despite City being the English champions Pellegrini conceded they suffered from tension. “I don’t think you have any reason to be so nervous because it just depends on the way to recover our normal performance to win again. But of course with players sent off it is more difficult.
City ended the match with nine men and only two points after four matches. Seydou Doumbia’s opening goal inside two minutes was answered soon after by Yaya Touré. But as Pellegrini’s team struggled to find any rhythm, Doumbia scored again before the break as City’s defending became shambolic. Fernandinho, who entered the game as a replacement at half-time, was shown two yellow cards – on 62 and 70 minutes – before Touré received a straight red for striking Roman Eremenko near the end. The Ivorian, who issued an apology to supporters after the game via his Twitter account, had already been booked but was shown a red rather than second yellow so will miss the last two games of the phase, at least.
While Fernandinho is suspended for Bayern Munich’s visit to the Etihad Stadium in three weeks’ time, Pellegrini refused to blame the referee, Anastasios Sidiropoulos, for an erratic display that included failing to show a second yellow card to Pontus Wernbloom towards the end. Instead, in a case of mistaken identity, Sergei Ignashevich was booked.
“I don’t want to analyse the referee’s decision. He referees the game and must decide if they are red cards or they are not or if it is a penalty or if it is not a penalty. It is more important for me to analyse why we are not playing in the way we always work on,” said Pellegrini.
“I think the lack of discipline, I don’t think that is a real thing with this team. We are in a bad moment with the performance but the only way to try and arrange is to continue working and work out why there is a lack of trust with the players. Normally we are a very disciplined team so for me it is more important we return to our normal performance.”
Of his captain who appeared to suffer an injury Pellegrini said: “Vincent Kompany we will see (on Thursday). I don’t know at the moment if it is just a kick or we will see if it is some problem with his calf.”