Tuesday 24 February 2015 20:54, UK
Manuel Pellegrini is confident Manchester City can cope without Yaya Toure in their Champions League tie against Barcelona.
The midfielder is suspended for the first leg of City’s last-16 game against the Spanish giants on Tuesday night but his team-mates fared well in the previous two games of his ban, winning 3-2 against Bayern Munich and 2-0 against Roma to seal their place in the knockout stage.
Toure returned to City duty after the Africa Cup of Nations in emphatic fashion at the weekend, playing the full 90 minutes of Saturday evening’s 5-0 win over Newcastle United.
Pellegrini admits the Ivorian is a key player for his side but feels they can accommodate his absence against Barcelona, who won 11 games in a row before losing 1-0 to Malaga at the weekend.
“I always prefer to play with Yaya, he is a very important player and we always play better with Yaya,” said the City manager.
“But we can do well without him because we did so against Bayern and Roma and we have a good squad to replace him.”
We can do well without him because we did so against Bayern and Roma and we have a good squad to replace him.
City were beaten 2-0 at home by Barcelona at this stage of the competition last season and also lost the second leg at the Nou Camp, going down 2-1.
But Pellegrini feels his team will be better equipped to deal with the multi-talented Catalan side because of a less hectic fixture schedule in the build-up to the game.
“I think last year was different to this year because we are not playing so many games,” he said. “Our team is in a good moment but we also must recognise that we are going to play against a very strong team.
“We never thought that we were out. We always fought to the end and if there is a chance to mathematically do it then this team will always fight, especially at home.
“We showed personality and quality to qualify against Bayern Munich and this will give us good experience in the Champions League.”
The key to victory this time around, Pellegrini feels, will be possession. Barcelona have forged a reputation as a team which dominates the ball and the City manager accepts his side cannot afford for that to happen at the Etihad Stadium.
“I don’t think we tried to change our style last year, we had played 19 games in two months so we tried to play another way,” he said.
“We tried to contain Barcelona but we also tried to play and this year we will try to do what we always try to do.
“The main thing for our team is to fight for possession of the ball and have the ball for as long as we can, with good distribution.
“After that we have to concentrate because they have very good players. It’s important to try to win here but we are playing better away from home this year.
“We have to take advantage but the result is not so important because the game is 180 minutes.”