No excuses for Pellegrini as City face Rome showdown

Champions League Group E

No excuses for Pellegrini as City face Rome showdown

When you’ve just opened a €253m training ground, have a net spend of €714m over the past six years and can afford to field a ‘back-up’ strike force worth €68m, there can be no excuses.

If Manchester City do exit the Champions League tonight, they will point to the absence of Sergio Aguero as the decisive factor.

Manuel Pellegrini yesterday admitted during his press conference that the Argentinian could now miss up to six weeks due to the knee ligament damage he sustained against Everton on Saturday.

That he then went outside and told Sky that it could be eight weeks makes it clear that no-one knows quite yet.

There are other problems, too. Yaya Toure is suspended. Vincent Kompany and David Silva are both doubts. But excuses won’t wash anymore.

In short, Manchester City and Pellegrini know they cannot afford to get it wrong tonight in the bear-pit of the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Assuming CSKA Moscow do not win in Munich, then a score draw or victory will be enough to see them through to the last 16.

A Roma victory or a goalless draw would put them through at City’s expense. It would also put Pellegrini’s job in jeopardy, although he insisted last night at the plush team hotel that he was certain of his future.

But rewind three months, to the night before the opening game of the group against Bayern Munich. There, deep inside the Allianz Arena the City captain, Vincent Kompany, admitted the time for winning was now.

Fast-forward to the present and they are on the verge of either a wondrous piece of escapology or another abject failure in Europe.

It is now more than six years since Sheikh Mansour bought the club and invested the first tranche of what is now estimated at being well over €1.52bn in making City a prominent force in the Champions League.

To date they have qualified for the knockout stages once, and were then well beaten by Barcelona.

They go into this decisive game having won just one of their five games so far.

City cannot spend the money they have and not be judged in the harshest terms.

They have to progress tonight or the future at the Etihad will start to look distinctly unclear, no matter whether they win the title or not.

“Does my future depend on this game? I don’t think so,” said Pellegrini. “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.”

Certainly City’s chances would be much improved if they had Aguero.

“Maybe four, five or six weeks he will be out,” said Pellegrini. “Our team doesn’t depend on a single player and I hope my players can prove it tomorrow.”

True, but before his injury Aguero had scored seven of City’s previous 14 goals. Few teams could do without him but City have Eden Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic to turn to.

Roma, meanwhile, were content to paint themselves as callow underdogs.

Indeed, the biggest cloud on the horizon is the bizarre case of Daniele De Rossi. Reports last week suggested his ex-wife — and mother of his child — was arrested for allegedly kidnapping and torturing a businessman in Rome last year.

De Rossi was sent off against Sassuolo on Saturday, with many questioning whether he is in the right frame of mind to play.

“Daniele is fine,” said Roma boss Rudi Garcia. “He is a very important player, a great champion and a crucial figure in the dressing room. He’s a champion both on the field and in life.”

Roma possible (4-3-3): De Sanctis; Maicon, Manolas, Yanga-Mbiwa, Holebas, De Rossi, Keita, Nainggolan, Ljajic, Gervinho, Totti.

Man City possible (4-4-2): Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Clichy, Milner, Fernandinho, Lampard, Nasri, Jovetic, Dzeko.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox