Last Update 10:48
Tuesday, 03 August 2021

Pellegrini opts for substance over style

When Manchester City arrived at the Stadio Olimpico to play AS Roma with their Champions League hopes hanging in the balance, many wondered how they would cope without Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure.

Reuters , Thursday 11 Dec 2014
Manchester City
Manchester City's head coach Manuel Pellegrini waits for the start of a Group E Champions League soccer match between Roma and Manchester City at the Olympic stadium in Rome, Italy, Wednesday Dec.10, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Manager Manuel Pellegrini did not.

Despite boasting an enviable wealth of talent in their ranks, City have often floundered in the Champions League and ahead of kickoff in Rome on Wednesday they sat third in Group E.

With powerhouse midfielder Toure suspended and captain Kompany and talismanic striker Aguero injured, City's prospects of beating Roma looked bleak.

But having been forced to shuffle his pack and adopt a resilient rather than graceful style, Pellegrini stumbled across a formula that worked perfectly.

With the attacking flair that helped them claim the Premier League title last season put to one side, City produced a gladiatorial performance which conquered Roma.

Samir Nasri put the visitors in front in the second half before Pablo Zabaleta's late strike -- coupled with Bayern's victory over CSKA Moscow -- ensured City reached the knockout stages.

Midfielders Fernando and Fernandinho epitomised City's performance with tireless displays and three-times European Cup winner Graeme Souness hailed their effort

"It was a really solid European performance," the former Liverpool midfielder told Sky Sports. "They needed to show teams a bit more respect and be a bit more cautious. City did it right.

"It was a very different Man City. It was forced on them and they may have learned from that. Fernando and Fernandinho, what did they do creatively? I can't remember any clever passes.

"But what they did do -- they were on Roma, making them make passes they didn't want to make. You need that -- at the highest level you need that."

Jamie Carragher, who won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005, believes Pellegrini has a tough decision to make when midfielder Toure returns from suspension.

"It was a proper European performance that we've been looking for from City," he told Sky Sports.

"The big decision for them is in the next round -- he's suspended in the opening game but after that if they go on -- what do you do with Yaya Toure?"

Pellegrini has until February when the Champions League resumes to answer that question.

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