Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini could be facing his day of reckoning as his side bid to salvage their season with a dramatic Nou Camp rescue act.
Pellegrini is fighting for his job as City head into the second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash against Barcelona seeking to overturn a 2-1 deficit.
Pressure on the Chilean has grown considerably in recent weeks as City’s hopes of retaining their Barclays Premier League crown have receded.
His only chance of turning the tide and showing progress from last season - and, many believe, avoiding the fate that befell predecessor Roberto Mancini two years ago – is to engineer a famous victory over Primera Division giants Barca.
That prospect seems unlikely, given how much City were outplayed in the first leg, but Pellegrini was in bullish mood on the eve of the match.
In keeping with a new-found fighting spirit that has seen him speaking much more candidly lately, Pellegrini said: “First of all I respect all opinions but I don’t think my seat is in danger.
“I want to say there’s no such strange atmosphere at Manchester City. We’re second in the Premier League, still playing strong and are going to fight to prove it.
“It will be very important for our team to prove we are one of the best teams in Europe. The only way to prove it is to play against (and beat) a big team. That must be our mentality and this is our test.”
The heat has even been turned up on Pellegrini by Mancini, who in an intriguingly-timed interview on Tuesday suggested the current City boss was not making the most of the team he left him.
Mancini, sacked in 2013 despite winning the title 12 months earlier, told CNN: “I think Pellegrini was really lucky because he got this team that is a strong team and he has a chance to put in more good players.
“I think City can win a title every year and have a chance – it should and must try to win a title every year.”
Mancini, now in charge at Inter Milan, has also been quoted lately expressing his admiration for City’s key midfielder Yaya Toure.
Incidentally, Toure was alongside Pellegrini as City hosted media for their pre-match press conference at their Barcelona beachfront hotel.
Toure was asked about Pellegrini’s future and – although he referred little to the manager in his answer – did stress the importance of team improvement to ensure collective survival.
“I think football is like that,” said the Ivory Coast international to a question concerning the speculation surrounding Pellegrini.
“Last year was brilliant, everyone was saying Manchester City are a top team in Europe – but all of a sudden we have some problems and we’re the worst team in the world.
“We all know what we have to do, the owners have spent a lot of money to make this one of the top clubs in Europe. We have had some difficulties but we are working hard.
“It’s not the first time we have been in this situation. We’ll try to do it for the fans and the club and the people who continue to help us.”