MANCHESTER — Manuel Pellegrini was in a defiant mood in his post-game press conference on Tuesday, as the Manchester City boss brushed off suggestions that his side are failing to learn from slow starts in the UEFA Champions League.
Despite leading 1-0 with 20 minutes to play against last season’s runners up Juventus on Tuesday, the Citizens hit the self-destruct button, hard, as goals from Mario Mandzukic and Alvaro Morata ensured City’s fans endured another miserable European night at the Etihad Stadium.
[ MORE: Recap – City 1-2 Juventus ]
Here’s what Pellegrini had to say when asked if City can learn from these early struggles in the UCL which continue to plague them.
“No, I don’t think we need to learn from other years,” Pellegrini said. “In the last two seasons we started by losing the first home game and both seasons we qualified for the next stage. We have just started. Of course, we didn’t want to lose here at home because these were important points.”
The Citizens have failed to make it past the last 16 of the UCL in their history, falling at that stage in each of Pellegrini’s first two seasons in charge, and that’s because in both campaigns they’ve finished in second in their groups after slow starts and have been paired with powerhouse Barcelona in the knockout rounds.
In each of those European campaigns they’ve lost their opening home game, in 2013 they lost to Bayern Munich 3-1 at home, then in 2014 they went down 1-0 to Bayern again. Losing at home to top opponents isn’t a disgrace, but it does prove that the runaway leaders of the embryonic Premier League season have failed to learn previous lessons. Despite that fact, the notion that Pellegrini feels think City need to learn from previous seasons is slightly bizarre.
On Tuesday, City looked nervy at times in attack, with Raheem Sterling missing two glorious chances in either half, plus Pellegrini’s personnel choices could be questioned with Wilfried Bony having a poor outing in attack while $86 million club record signing Kevin De Bruyne sat on the bench and only arrived after Juventus’ opening goal. With Sergio Aguero out through injury (although he made a miraculous recovery to play the final seven minutes on Tuesday) why not play De Bruyne or Sterling through the middle from the start?
No matter who Pellegrini played on Tuesday, he believes the Citizens have plenty to play for in the UCL this season, despite yet another slow start.
“We have 15 more points to play for, so it will depend on the way we play the next game. It is not the best way to start, to lose at home, against the strongest team of the group, but that doesn’t mean we are not going to qualify,” Pellegrini added. “We have to play against Juventus away and four other games and we will see who has the most points at the end.”