Sport Soccer

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Pellegrini forced to plot Barcelona demise with hotel lobby team talk

Manuel Pellegrini, manager of Manchester City
Manuel Pellegrini, manager of Manchester City

Mark Ogden

Manuel Pellegrini will be forced to prepare for Manchester City's must-win Champions League encounter with Barcelona tomorrow by delivering his final team talk in a hotel meeting room hours before the game.

Trailing 2-0 from the last-16 first-leg tie at the Etihad Stadium last month, City must win by two clear goals in the Nou Camp to avoid elimination from a second major competition in three days following their FA Cup exit against Wigan Athletic on Sunday.

However, after receiving a two-match touchline ban from Uefa as punishment for his criticism of Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson in the wake of the first-leg defeat, Pellegrini will be denied any access to his players once the squad arrive at the stadium tomorrow evening.

With Uefa touchline bans providing more stringent punishment than domestic penalties, Pellegrini's sanction makes it clear that the Chilean "may not enter the dressing room, tunnel or technical area before or during the match; and he may not communicate directly or indirectly with his players and/or technical staff during the game".

As a result of the sanction, Pellegrini will decline to appear for the scheduled pre-match press conference in the Nou Camp, with assistant manager Ruben Cousillas or coach Brian Kidd due to field questions instead.

Last season, Alex Ferguson was fined €10,000 by Uefa for failing to attend a post-match press conference following the defeat against Real Madrid at Old Trafford.

Pellegrini's touchline ban will force the former Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga coach to lay out his tactical requirements to his players at the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos, City's team base, prior to leaving for the Nou Camp.

Although Pellegrini is expected to watch from the stands alongside City's directors, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has previously overcome Uefa touchline bans, such as when he hid in a laundry basket which was wheeled into the dressing room prior to a Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich at Stamford Bridge in April 2005.

And having received a three-match touchline ban following a spat with Barcelona players and coaching staff during a Champions League semi-final in 2011, Mourinho watched the second leg from a hotel room – and a group-stage game against Croatia Zagreb the following season – and allegedly maintained contact with assistant Aitor Karanka via an iPad and mobile phone.

Despite the restrictions imposed on Pellegrini, City have chosen not to appeal against the punishment ahead of the second leg.

While City go into the game on the back of their surprise 2-1 defeat by Wigan on Sunday, Barcelona's 1-0 defeat at Real Valladolid on Saturday was the Spanish champions' third loss in their past six league outings.

With Tata Martino's team showing previously unseen fallibility in La Liga, City midfielder Samir Nasri insists that Pellegrini's players can overturn their 2-0 deficit.

"It is an amazing game and we can do something fantastic if we change the result," Nasri said. "But we have to be focused and take the Wigan game as a lesson. Against Wigan, we only woke up and played for 30 minutes. At this level, you cannot do that. In a game like this, you must be focused from the start."

City are due to train in Manchester today before flying to Barcelona, with only the suspended Martin Demichelis expected to miss the trip. Joleon Lescott and Javi Garcia are in contention to replace Demichelis. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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