Manuel Pellegrini believes his Manchester City do not receive the credit from the press they deserve.
The Blues have often been criticised this season for their performances in the UEFA Champions League, in which they have lost twice, drawn twice and won just one of their five group matches ahead of their trip to Roma on Wednesday night. This meant that they had to secure at least a score draw in the capital to progress, and only then if CSKA Moscow lost at Bayern Munich.
Yet City produced perhaps their best performance in Europe in recent years, as second half goals from Samir Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta gave them a well-earned 2-0 win to secure their passage into the last 16. That they did so without Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure, and using the returning David Silva only as a substitute, left Pellegrini hailing the quality of this achievement.
“I said that I do not want to complain about the players that are not in our team,” he said on the Sky Sports website. “It is difficult to play without Kompany, Silva, Aguero and Toure and I think that this team deserve a little bit more credit than the press always give us, because even without Sergio the team qualified and we played well in Europe, the same way we have in the Premier League.”
The Blues, who will be joined by Arsenal and Chelsea in the first knockout stage, will now await the draw for the next stage on Monday. As runners-up in Group E they will face one of the other group winners – although not Chelsea – and will probably hope to avoid Barcelona and Real Madrid, which leaves them with Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Monaco or Porto.
Meanwhile, Pellegrini can now push the Champions League to the back of his mind and refocus on retaining the Premier League title. Chelsea’s 2-1 loss at Newcastle United last weekend has allowed the champions to move within three points of Jose Mourinho’s side, and they will look to secure another maximum-point haul when they travel to bottom-placed Leicester City on Saturday.
“Now we are finished in the Champions League, we have qualified and we start thinking about this in February,” added Pellegrini. “Now we must think about the Premier League, we must try and forget about how many points Chelsea are ahead of us, we are just three points behind them, we must play four games in December and then we will start to think about this competition again.”
Do City get enough credit for progressing through a group which contained Real Madrid and Roma, or was this the minimum requirement anyway?