James Milner returns to the squad
Yaya Toure misses out due to suspension
Fitter squad will take on Barcelona but must not concede goals at home.
Manuel Pellegrini has vowed to take Barcelona on despite missing talismanic midfielder Yaya Toure for their Round of 16 knockout game at the Etihad tomorrow, but has reiterated the importance of not conceding away goals before the second leg of what he has described as a “180 minute game”.
“I think that at this stage of the competition in a game of 180 minutes it’s very important to win. If you win you should try not to concede goals here at home, and if you cannot win you must draw and 0-0 is better than 1-1.
“We must try not to concede goals at home but also try to win the game from the beginning. It’s important to have a chance to qualify in Barcelona.” said Pellegrini.
The Chilean was adamant that City would not change their style of play and wouldn’t be making special arrangements to counter Barca’s star player Lionel Messi, reasoning that the Catalans were not just a one-man team.
“I think Lionel Messi will continue being the best player in the world but I don’t think that we should just think about how to stop Lionel Messi.” said Pellegrini.
“I don’t think that last year we changed our style, maybe we couldn’t do what we tried to do.” added the Chilean, who has the benefit of a fitter squad who have played fewer games than at the same time last season and did finally concede that they tried something different for the visit of Barcelona.
“Last year we arrived at this game with 19 games in a little more than two months.
“So we tried to play in a different style and in different ways. We are happy with what we did in that game, we always tried to attack and couldn’t do it in that game so this year will try to do what we always do.
“The main thing is to try and fight for possession of the ball. We need to have the ball for as long as we can and have good distribution of the ball to try to take Barcelona on as near to their box as we can.
“It’s important to try to win here but this team has already demonstrated we are playing away better than we did last year. Last year we didn’t do a bad game against Barcelona.
“In the group stages we beat Bayern Munich away and it’s very important tomorrow to take advantage but the result tomorrow doesn’t matter as it’s a game of 180 minutes.
“It’s important for us to fight with Barcelona for possession of the ball.
“It’s impossible to recover also and after that try and play as near as possible to their box.
“When they have the ball and attack we must be very concentrated against not only Messi but their other players also.”
City have played three fewer games thanks to their Fourth Round FA Cup exit at home to Middlesbrough in January and an early Capital One Cup defeat at home to Newcastle United last October.
Pellegrini also confirmed that James Milner was 100% fit after a knee ligament problem prevented him from playing in City’s 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle United at the weekend. The England midfielder worked yesterday and in today’s training session without any problems.
The Chilean conceded that the one big miss for City tomorrow will be Ivory Coast midfielder Toure who will be suspended after being sent off in City’s Champions League group stage defeat at home to CSKA Moscow last November.
Pellegrini admitted his disappointment but added that City had become stronger away from home this season.
“I always prefer to play with Yaya. He’s a very important player and our team plays better with Yaya but we can play without Yaya also.
“We played without him against Roma and Bayern Munich last year also. And we have a good squad from which to replace him.” said the Chilean.
Toure has only just returned to City’s squad after winning the African Cup of Nations and arrived with new signing Wilfried Bony who is available for tomorrow’s game after replacing Stevan Jovetic in City’s UEFA Champions League restricted squad list due to Financial Fair play punishment.