DEFIANT Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini last night denied claims his players have lost faith in him on the eve of their make-or-break Champions League last-16 clash in Barcelona.
Pellegrini also reiterated that he expects to see out a contract that runs until the end of next season, regardless of whether his team pull off an unlikely victory in Catalonia.
City are amid a slump and will finish the season empty-handed unless they reel in runaway Premier League leaders Chelsea - or overturn Barca's 2-1 first-leg advantage tonight.
“You don’t know the kind of confidence my players have in me,” Pellegrini said in response to hostile questioning from media in Spain, where he managed Real Madrid, Malaga and Villarreal.
“You know what football is. You could have asked the question the other way round if we were talking two months ago. All teams go through different moments and we will try to do our best with dedication and hard work.
“There is no strange atmosphere at City. We are second in the Premier League, still playing strong and are going to fight to prove it tomorrow. I respect all opinions but I don’t think my seat is in danger.
“Even if it was I wouldn’t do anything differently, I would do the same thing and focus and concentrate on the game. I don’t know what the Catalan press says but I have one more year left and I’m confident I’m going to finish my contract.”
Pellegrini has Yaya Toure back from suspension but is without Gael Clichy, sent off in the first leg, and he urged his players to avoid another costly red card.
“The most important thing is to play with 11 players,” he added. “Last year we played 40 minutes with one player less. In the last game we played 20 without a player.
“The three red cards were our fault and utterly fair, but playing Barcelona 11 v 11 is hard enough, playing 11 v 10 is almost impossible.”
Brazil midfielder Fernandinho, meanwhile, believes City must try and replicate the enterprise shown by Paris Saint-Germain and Schalke in their second-round ties last week.
“Our intention is to go to Camp Nou and win, it’s the only option we have but to do so we must play in a compact way that prevents giving Barca too much space,” said Fernandinho.
“Last week, there were two teams that played with character away from home and our intentions are the same. Schalke and PSG played great football, and our team can probably be inspired by these teams and their results. Maybe it can help a little bit.”
■ Barcelona have progressed 33 out of the 35 times they have won the away first leg in a UEFA competition
■ The four-time European champions are seeking a record eighth successive quarter-final appearance
■ Barcelona hold an impressive home record against English opponents, winning 16 and drawing 11 of 29 ties