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Monday 18 December 2017

Pellegrini: We can beat Barcelona in Camp Nou

Barcelona's Lionel Messi is fouled by Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta for a penalty
Barcelona's Lionel Messi is fouled by Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta for a penalty
Barcelona's Lionel Messi looks dejected after having his penalty saved by Manchester City's Joe Hart

Manuel Pellegrini had no regrets about his team selection even though Manchester City were completely out-played by Barcelona in the first half of their Champions League match at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.

City were lucky to escape with a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of their last-16 tie after they were taught a lesson in how to play with passion, flair and destruction during a 45-minute blitz in Manchester.

Luis Suarez scored twice on his return to England, Neymar missed a good chance to add a third and Dani Alves also rattled the bar as the Spanish giants completely over-ran the English champions before the break.

Luckily for Pellegrini, Sergio Aguero pulled one back in the second half and Joe Hart saved a Lionel Messi penalty in injury time to give City a fighting chance of staying in the competition.

Pellegrini raised a few eyebrows by playing a 4-4-2 formation with Edin Dzeko up front alongside Aguero. Barcelona's three-man midfield dominated play from the centre of the park, but Pellegrini shrugged off suggestions he had handed the Spaniards the initiative because of the way his team lined up.

"No, I am very happy with the way we played," the City boss said when asked if he regretted his team selection.

"It was the way we must play against Barcelona.

"Barcelona will always dominate in some parts of the game like the midfield."

Pellegrini still fancies his chances of beating Barca in the second leg next month to reach the quarter-finals.

''With the way we play, I think we can do it,'' the City boss said.

''It is important not to make the same mistakes. We cannot have a player sent off every game against Barcelona.

''But we have a chance. We must try to do it there.

''It is important for this team to continue in the Champions League as far as possible.''

Messi looked extremely annoyed to have missed the penalty that would have made City huge underdogs to progress.

The Argentinian has been prolific for Barca this year, but he has a poor record from the penalty spot of late.

Messi has missed five of the last 10 penalties he has taken for club and country and has also failed to convert three spot-kicks in the Champions League.

When asked whether he would hand penalty-taking duties to another player in future, Barca coach Luis Enrique said: ''No. We know penalties can be missed in this game of ours and he will take the next one.

''Tonight is a night to celebrate. All the first half was fantastic from every player, every person on the pitch.

''I can't complain about the attitude of the players.''

Meanwhile Barcelona forward Neymar appeared to confront a Manchester City fan at the full-time whistle of the Champions League clash at the Etihad Stadium.

Neymar was substituted in the 80th minute of the last-16 first-leg game, which Barca won 2-1, and footage posted on YouTube shows the 23-year-old apparently remonstrating with a section of City's support from the visiting dugout.

Once the full-time whistle was blown, the Brazilian then walked to the pitch side and looked to be in a heated discussion with one City supporter in particular, with stewards intervening to defuse the situation.

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