Europe's finest will fear Manchester City in Champions League knockout stages, says Manuel Pellegrini
Manuel Pellegrini claimed Manchester City can strike fear into any opponent in the last 16 of the Champions League after the club secured qualification from Group D with two games to spare by defeating CSKA Moscow.
Victories against Viktoria Plzen at home later this month and Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in December could yet see Pellegrini’s team emerge as winners of the group — a target the Chilean insists is within the club’s reach — but the 5-2 win against CSKA confirmed the basic requirement of progression to the knockout stages for the first time.
With City now able to look ahead to next February’s two-legged round of the last 16, Pellegrini believes that his squad are good enough to worry even the best teams in the competition.
“I think we can beat any side now, when we play at our best,” Pellegrini said. “I think the most important teams in Italy, Spain and France are competitive, so we will see where we go now.
“We have a strong team and the minimum target was to qualify for the next round, but it is not our only target.
“We have a strong squad and we will see who we will play in February, but I can assure you that, whoever we draw, they will not be very happy to play against us.”
Under Roberto Mancini, City failed twice to escape the group stage, prompting Pellegrini to admit the importance for the club in finally clearing the hurdle.
“We are very happy because this is an achievement in the history of the club,” Pellegrini said. “You can see from the last two years it is not easy, and yet two games before the end, we are in the round of 16, and that is great for the fans and the whole club.
“For now, of course we are going to try and top the group. It is important to try and do that, and we will keep trying to the end to get above Bayern.”
In a game which had been overshadowed by the racist abuse directed at City midfielder Yaya Touré during the 2-1 victory against CSKA in Moscow earlier this month, Greater Manchester Police reported just three arrests — for scuffling between CSKA supporters — and no racially-linked incidents.
Touré admitted that the behaviour of the City fans at the Etihad was an example to the visiting Russian supporters.
“We must say thank you to the fans today,” Touré said. “They showed the fans of CSKA how to support a team.”