Demichelis' tackles which earned him a red card and gave Barca a PK which Messi converted. But did City deserve a 2-0 defeat in the first leg?

Manuel Pellegrini not covering himself in glory, says official was on Barca’s side “from the beginning”

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Manuel Pellegrini thinks the fix was in.

The Manchester City manager is blaming referee Jonas Eriksson for his club’s 2-0 home loss to Barcelona in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

Pellegrini managed to offer several scathing accusations in one fell swoop, bouncing around from Eriksson’s nationality to the referee making amends for a previous Barca match he officiated to the bias lasting the duration of the game.

It was a classless diatribe that’s sure to earn the ire — and perhaps a penalty — from UEFA.

“I think it was not a good idea to put a referee from Sweden in charge of such an important match, and a referee who made an important mistake against Barcelona in a previous match. Today he arranged it.

“The Chilean added: “The referee decided the game. He was on Barcelona’s side from the beginning until the end.”

Eriksson’s biggest call in the game was a red card and penalty kick against City’s Martin Demichelis after the beaten defender took down an “in” Lionel Messi on the edge of the 18. The City consternation came from the fact that last man back Demichelis began his tackle outside of the 18, though there’s no question that Messi had beaten his man and was primed to do what he does best.

RELATED: Cesc Fabregas tells the world FC Barcelona is not done yet

When Pellegrini started talking about going after the quadruple, he opened the door to a lot of public stresses and perhaps that big talk is making his mouth say things he shouldn’t. Some may have questions about Eriksson’s decision — I certainly do not — but to claim an official walked into the game with a plan to make amends from a match in 2012?

Come on, Manuel. So Eriksson turned down a penalty shout from Pep Guardiola in a 0-0 leg two years ago, a tie with AC Milan that Barca went on to win 3-1, and carried that guilt all the way to Manchester? Even your pal Jose Mourinho thinks you’re reaching (or just awful at mind games).

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.