Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes his team is “fresher” and performing at a higher level than they were at the same point last season, speaking ahead of his side’s Champions League Round of 16 first leg,
A year ago, Barcelona advanced to the quarter-final of the European competition after dispensing with Manchester City by an aggregate score of 4-1 (including a 2-0 victory at the Etihad).
Pellegrini feels that his side were tired after playing 19 matches in two months, and is confident his team won’t duplicate their efforts from last season against the Spanish giants.
“Last year, we went into the tie after playing 19 games in two months,” the City boss explained. “We’re fresher this time and we’re in a good moment of form but we know that we’ll be up against a formidable rival.”
When asked if a change in tactics resulted in last year’s results, Pellegrini responded: I don’t think we changed our style when we met them last season. We played a lot of games one after another and we tried to approach the game in a different way but it didn’t work out.”
“We wanted to open up the field and create danger; I think the most important thing is to battle to win the ball and not let Barcelona player their passing game. We can’t let them get into their rhythm.”
Pellegrini will be without the services of influential midfielder Yaya Toure, due to the Africa Cup of Nations winner being sent off against CSKA Moscow in the group stages. But the manager feels his squad is big enough to cope with the loss of the Ivory Coast international.
The Argentine boss is aware of the threat Barcelona poise to his side, despite the La Liga club falling to Malaga at home this weekend.
“We’ll see the true Barcelona tomorrow – despite the fact that they lost their last league game,” Pellegrini added. “Before the Malaga game they were in a winning streak and I expect to see the best Barca tomorrow night.”
Prior to the setback against Malaga, Barcelona had won eleven straight matches in all competitions – with a rejuvenated Lionel Messi leading the Catalan club’s title charge.
Although Pellegrini is aware of the threat poised by the Argentine forward, he knows Manchester City can’t get caught up with trying to shutdown one player because Barcelona possesses attacking options at every position.
“He’s the best player in the world but we can’t afford to only focus on him,” the City manager concluded. “Barcelona have other great individual players. We must try to play close to their area and be extra attentive when they have the ball.”
Programming note: Manchester City vs. Barcelona will be shown LIVE on Tuesday at 2:45pm EST on FOX Sports 1 and FoxSoccer2Go.
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