Bullish Pellegrini insists Barcelona are not the force of old

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini does not believe facing Barcelona is the fearsome prospect it once was.

City have been handed a testing tie against the Catalan giants in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Pellegrini’s men might have avoided such a big clash had they not misunderstood the group stage goal difference rules last week.

City beat Bayern Munich 3-2 but Pellegrini failed to realise that victory by one more goal would have secured top spot in their group and a theoretically more favourable draw.

Yet simply after beating the European champions, and then scoring six past Premier League leaders Arsenal, Pellegrini is confident enough after the draw.

He said: “I think they will be very concerned also. Barcelona is not the team it was two years ago.

“I think it is a beautiful game with two very good teams.”

While Pellegrini accepts he miscalculated in Munich, he insists his side would have faced a tough draw from whichever position they had finished in the group.

He said: “All the 16 teams that play in the last 16 are the best teams of Europe — so Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain for me was exactly the same.”

Despite what happened in Munich — and Pellegrini’s failure to send on top scorer Sergio Aguero continues to be picked out by critics — the Chilean insists his team did not stop trying to score a fourth.

He feels too much is being made of the matter and the team are not receiving enough credit for recovering from 2-0 down.

He said: “There was no confusion. Maybe a mistake could be if I thought 3-2 was enough and we didn’t try to score the fourth goal — but we tried to score the fourth and fifth goal but we couldn’t do it.”

The tie will bring Barca star Lionel Messi up against his Argentina team-mate Aguero, who yesterday confirmed he will be out for at least month with the injury he picked up against Arsenal.

Pellegrini recently said he rates Aguero third, behind Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, among the world’s best players.

Meanwhile Arsenal have been handed an unenviable tie after being drawn against holders Bayern Munich. The Gunners were expecting a tough draw after finishing second in Group F.

Chelsea will take on Turkish side Galatasaray, while Manchester United face Greek outfit Olympiacos.


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