Manchester City must put their “difficult situation” behind them and use Wednesday’s clash against Juventus as a test of their Champions League-winning potential, according to their coach Manuel Pellegrini.
City, who have already qualified for the last 16 of the competition, face the Italian champions looking for revenge following their 2-1 defeat to Juve at the Etihad in September. But Pellegrini, who has a number of key players sidelined through injury, said the prospect of finishing top of Group D and avoiding a potentially difficult draw in the knockout phase is key to their hopes of going further in the competition this season.
Barcelona proved a major obstacle for both City and Juventus last season, the Spanish giants ousting City 3-1 on aggregate in the knockout phase before outclassing Juventus in the final in Berlin. Avoiding the Catalans again would give City a boost, and Pellegrini has called for a win on Wednesday that would both secure first place and test City’s mettle against an established European side away from home.
“This year I think it’s important to be at the top of the group, because it’s a test for us tomorrow to try to win in a difficult stadium,” Pellegrini told media in Turin on Tuesday.
“And that would allow us to win the group.”
He added: “It’s important to try to avoid them (Barcelona). It’s important for our club to at least reach one step more.
“It doesn’t mean that if we finish top of the group, we’re going to have an easy draw. It depends on a lot of different things. But if we can avoid important teams at this stage, then I think it’s also important for our team.”
City’s injury crisis was described as a “difficult situation” by the Chilean manager, who saw his side dismantled 4-1 at home by Liverpool on Saturday. City center back and captain Vincent Kompany, as well as forwards Wilfried Bony, David Silva and Samir Nasri are still sidelined through injury.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri watched City’s performance and said the hosts would “try to capitalize on City’s weak points.” But Pellegrini was quick to stress he did not regard Saturday’s display as “normal,” and believes the pressure will be all on the hosts as they bid to secure their own last 16 ticket:
“I think that all managers want to try to find the weakest points of the other teams, I don’t think you can take the game from Saturday as one of our normal performances.
“Now it’s a different competition, it’s a different game. We’re here to play against Juventus, to try to beat them at home, because I think we were very unlucky when we lost to Juve in our stadium.
“It was a close game, they won the game but we didn’t deserve to lose that game.
“But at this moment we’re qualified for the next stage and tomorrow they need to at least not lose to qualify. That is important than seeing what are the weakest points of both teams.”
He added: “Juve has a very strong squad, they reached the final last year. They’re not in their best moment domestically, but I’m sure we’ll be up against a team that is determined to win the game.
“But I also hope we find a Manchester City that will fight to win this game. Beating Juventus here is a big test for the future of our team in the competition.”
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