A very important game but not quite sudden death - that was Manuel Pellegrini’s stance on Wednesday night’s game against CSKA Moscow.
City arrive into UEFA Champions League Match Day Four without a win in this year’s competition, meaning that a defeat to the Russian champions would surely end their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds.
However, Pellegrini is confident that his team can win the game and predicts that qualification will be decided in the final game of Group E, against Rome in Italy.
“I don’t think it’s sudden death – you can continue mathematically but it’s an important game,” Manuel said in his pre-match press conference.
“We have just two more games to play and we need more points. Our team don’t consider it a final game but it’s a very important game.
“It’s impossible to be sure but I think this group will be decided in the last game against Rome in Italy. We’ll see what happens, we will try to win our two games at home and see what the other teams do but I think the qualifiers will be decided in the last game.
“I think that our fans will be behind our team because when we win a game at home here, it’s because everyone does their job, the manager, the players and the fans.
“The three games of the Champions League were strange – all of them. We were very unlucky to lose to Bayern – the most difficult game of the group in the last minute to a deflected goal.
“We didn’t play well against Rome – they were in a good moment and in Russia, we played well but then had an excess of trust and only drew the game.
“We have time to put things right and I hope that we do it.”
Pellegrini also confirmed that Frank Lampard and Aleksandar Kolarov are both injured and out of contention for selection.
The match will take place almost a year to the day since City beat the same opposition 5-2 at the Etihad.
The Chilean feels that City are in better shape than they were ahead of that game in 2013 and stated his belief that his team are one of the sides who can have aspirations for winning the tournament this year.
“There have been many times that a team has qualified out of a group with a low points total and then gone on to win the competition,” he told reporters.
“Our target is to win the Champions League – maybe there are also five or six teams at the same level or better but with a winning mentality and an ambitious mind, you always have a chance. That’s the way we must be.
“I am not sure we were in our best form [before meeting CSKA in 2013] in that moment, we were in a worse position than today in the Premier league, with less points. I hope that tomorrow we find our team in the right moment to win the game.
“Last year we went one step further in the Champions League than the other years and I hope we continue to improve.
“I don’t agree that we’ve been disappointing at home – this year all of the games we played against big teams, we didn’t lose one of them.
“We beat Spurs, United and drew with Chelsea – we must finish the qualifiers and then we will analyse what happens with this team in the Champions League.”
Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho was also present at the press conference and revealed that he thinks City need to win the game to boost their confidence in continental competition.
“I agree with the boss – it’s an important game and we need more confidence in the Champions League,” he said.
“If we win this game, we’ll have more chance to qualify for the next round.
“For me, the World Cup is in the past. I felt bad for two weeks but when I came back to City I put my head to the Premier League and the Champions League and the World Cup was in the past.
“I just want to get to my best level of fitness, to play well and to do the same thing I did last season.”