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Monday 5 December 2016

Manuel Pellegrini defends leaving Samir Nasri out of his Champions League squad

Published 09/04/2016 | 21:16

Samir Nasri scored Manchester City's winner against West Brom
Samir Nasri scored Manchester City's winner against West Brom

Manuel Pellegrini defended his decision to leave Samir Nasri out of Manchester City's Champions League squad after the Frenchman's match-winning display against West Brom.

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Nasri celebrated his first start for almost seven months by scoring a 66th-minute winner as City came from behind to beat the Baggies 2-1 in their Barclays Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium.

Nasri only returned to action as a substitute at Bournemouth last week after undergoing surgery for a serious thigh muscle problem last October.

Such was the severity of the injury that the 28-year-old was not registered for the Champions League in the second half of the season as striker Kelechi Iheanacho was preferred.

But after returning to form and fitness quicker than expected, Nasri now cannot be called upon for the second leg of City's quarter-final tie against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

Pellegrini said: "We expected he was going to come back in the middle of April, the doctor said, but we needed to play in the Champions League in February.

"We had just Kun (Sergio Aguero) as a striker as (Wilfried) Bony was injured, so it was important to include Kelechi.

"But, (besides that) I do not think he is able to play (again) in another three days. He has had a long injury."

Nasri was not concerning himself with that issue and was just pleased to have made such an important contribution on his return to the team.

City's victory secured an important three points as they look to hold off the challenge of Manchester United and retain their grip on fourth place.

Nasri told Sky Sports: "I cannot explain how happy I am. It's been more than five and a half months I've been out and I played my first 90 minutes.

"I was a bit dead at the end but when you've been out for so long, you come back very hungry because you want to prove to everyone that you have the quality to play in this squad, especially with all the new players we have."

Pellegrini was also impressed by Nasri's performance.

He said: "I'm very happy for him. He was very unlucky to have that kind of injury. I was very impressed he played the 90 minutes and he was a very important player."

The result also took City back within two points of third-placed Arsenal.

Pellegrini said: "We are always looking up not behind our shoulders. You must continue to be as near to the top of the table as you can."

Pellegrini's attention will now turn to the visit of PSG and the Chilean played down a fitness scare over Aguero. The striker, who scored City's equaliser from the penalty spot after Stephane Sessegnon's opener, limped through the latter stages after a challenge from Craig Gardner.

Pellegrini, who will also hope captain Vincent Kompany can return, said: "Kun had a kick but there is not a problem for Tuesday."

Despite securing the victory, City were not at their best and West Brom will feel they missed an opportunity to take something from the game.

Saido Berahino missed two good late chances and James McClean also went close to equalising in the last minute, while Sandro felt he should have had a penalty following a challenge by Eliaquim Mangala.

Manager Tony Pulis said: "I thought it was a penalty and it does not just affect us as a result, but all the teams around City who are fighting for that Champions League spot, where there are millions at stake, will be disappointed with that decision.

"I thought the lads played really well and we're disappointed we didn't get one or two breaks, but we've got to hit the target more - it's been a fault of ours this season."

Press Association

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