Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini last night denied that the shadow cast by the impending arrival of Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium has derailed his side’s tilt for silverware this season.
City beat Sunderland the day after announcing that departing Bayern Munich boss Guardiola would replace the Chilean at the end of the current campaign but have since lost three successive matches across two competitions.
Pellegrini’s charges face Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine tonight in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie before a pivotal week ends with a showdown with Liverpool in Sunday’s Capital One Cup final at Wembley.
The announcement of Guardiola’s appointment was meant to end speculation and uncertainty over Pellegrini’s future, and the 62-year-old refuses to accept that his players have been affected.
“No, really, that is not a problem,” said Pellegrini. “All the players from the start, they are just thinking in this season. We have important challenges this year and we are focused in every game.
“It’s very easy because we are focusing on winning silverware.”
Pellegrini’s defensive options are set to be boosted by the return of centre-half Eliaquim Mangala, who has been missing since early January with a hamstring injury.
City, meanwhile, could play in front of 70,000 supporters at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium tonight after a previously imposed three-match stadium ban for racist behaviour and crowd disturbances was reduced to one game on appeal earlier this month.
While pleased that City’s showdown in Kiev will not be played in an empty arena, Pellegrini hopes fans of the Ukrainian champions heed warning from past mistakes.
“One of the worst things you can do is play in an empty stadium,” added Pellegrini.
“In this case, fans of Kiev have a lesson about what happened. I know maybe for the home team it’s not an advantage to play without fans, but for football it’s important.”