Pellegrini backs fans’ right to protest against anthem

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is happy for fans to continue booing the Champions League anthem.
Pellegrini backs fans’ right to protest against anthem

City have been reported to Uefa after jeering during the competition’s traditional pre-match ceremony in a protest against the European governing body prior to last month’s home clash against Sevilla.

The club could face disciplinary action but Pellegrini would have no issue if there was a repeat of the action prior to tonight’s return Group D match at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Pellegrini said: “Everyone has the right to boo and protest. It is important how they do it but if they think something is wrong I think everyone has the right to say what they want.

“It is very difficult for me to analyse why they boo and the way they do it, but my general opinion is if they boo, Uefa are not doing something right,” he said. City’s supporters have had numerous issues with Uefa in recent years, but ill feeling increased a year ago when a game in Russia was ordered to be played behind closed doors.

That was as a punishment for numerous offences by CSKA Moscow fans, including incidences of racial abuse, but City fans were also banned from the ground, with no allowance made for those that had already arranged travel, visas and accommodation.

Captain Vincent Kompany described as a “joke” the opening of disciplinary proceedings by Uefa for “disruption of the competition anthem” but the case will be heard on November 19 and a charge could follow. By then City could have secured their place in the last 16 of the Champions League, and they will do so if they beat Sevilla and Juventus win at Borussia Monchengladbach.

Pellegrini said: “It is very important for the team to try to win. It depends what happens in the other game but we can be almost classified for the next stage. It is important to play a good game and also get used to winning away in Europe,” he said.

But City know from experience that Europa League winners Sevilla are no pushovers. The Spaniards provided a stern test at the Etihad Stadium a fortnight ago and were only beaten by a late Kevin De Bruyne strike.

Pellegrini said: “They are the champions of the Europa League from last season and we know they have a stadium with a fantastic atmosphere. They have got some fantastic players and we know we are up against a team that plays very well.”

However, Pellegrini acknowledged that qualifying for the knockout stages with two games to spare, given the club’s past struggles in the competition, would be a good achievement.

He said: “Of course it is a benefit if you qualify as soon as you can and it is not easy to do it three or four games before. But in the same way, if you are qualified, you must then try to fight for the first position of the group. So, this is not a game that will finish the group stage. We have two games more to try to qualify if we don’t do it tomorrow, or to try to win the group if we do it tomorrow.”

Sevilla coach Unai Emery feels his side have little margin for error tonight.

They are third in Group D, three points behind City and four behind leaders Juventus midway through the first stage.

Emery said: “This could be decisive in terms of what happens to us in the competition. If we want to get through to the next phase we have to be brave tomorrow and give our best. We need to play well, be solid. We know they are going to pose a great threat to us. They are a team that are very well drilled.

“We have to work hard, defend well and be very solid at the back.”

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