No margin for Manchester City error in Champions League
MAN CITY v BAYERN MUNICH
(Tomorrow, 3.40am, SingTel mio TV Ch 111)
Ruling the English Premier League is one thing.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is realising that conquering Europe is a different kettle of fish.
The English Premiership champions host Champions League Group E leaders Bayern Munich tomorrow morning (Singapore time) knowing that there is no more room for error.Two points from four group matches leave them bottom of the table, two points behind CSKA Moscow and Roma, and a whopping 10 behind Bayern.The consolation is that the Bundesliga champions may rest their stars, having already secured top spot.But the worry is that City will continue to make a mockery of themselves.The failure to beat Roma at home, and CSKA home and away, suggests that the problem lies with them, not the opponents.Pellegrini admitted that he is at a loss as to why his charges have continually underperformed on European club football's grandest stage.
And this is where, for City, success or failure must be measured.Because of the millions they have splashed to lure the best players in the world such as Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and David Silva, they must be held to a different yardstick.
Premiership distinction is no more than a first, necessary step.From the day they welcomed their Abu Dhabi-based owners with open arms, their Holy Grail has been Champions League glory - the universal mark for greatness.
It is why Chelsea's achievements felt hollow until their 2012 Champions League triumph.
It is the same reason Sir Alex Ferguson's mastery didn't feel complete until 1999.In three Champions League campaigns, City were knocked out twice in the group phase and once in the first knockout round.
If the signs indicate that City have plateaued under Pellegrini, the 61-year-old Chilean's head will roll in no time, as his predecessor Roberto Mancini found out. Even the league and League Cup double last season won't be enough to save his job.
A group-stage exit now looks like a potential trigger.
At the moment, Pellegrini is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Even on the domestic stage, his team are eight points behind leaders Chelsea.
To make matters worse, they will face Bayern without midfield trio Silva (injury), Toure and Fernandinho (suspension).
A restless Etihad Stadium crowd are waiting for a chance, any chance, to voice their displeasure.
Bayern's Pep Guardiola will be seated on the opposite side of the dugout.
It may well be a first-round interview for Pellegrini's successor.
"My own pressure to continue to the next round is an important pressure, more maybe than the owners. Of course, I think we must be in the next stage."
- Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini
"Both of them, (Sergio) Aguero and (Stevan) Jovetic, are in the squad list, so they don’t have any problem for (tomorrow). They didn’t work normally (yesterday) because they had just a small thing (injury) after the last game, but nothing important."
— Manuel Pellegrini announcing that Aguero and Jovetic will be fit to face Bayern Munich