Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has played down concerns about the level of support his team will receive for the biggest Champions League match in their history, against Paris Saint-Germain tonight.
City have faced a fan backlash over the price of tickets for the quarter-final second leg at the Etihad Stadium, and seats were still available yesterday despite a reduced capacity of 53,000 for European games.
Club chiefs indicated yesterday that they expected the remaining 1,500 tickets to be snapped up, having seen a renewed flurry of interest since last week’s 2-2 draw in the French capital.
Pellegrini too believes he can count on a full house for a fixture that could see him repeat his achievement with previous club Villarreal and lead City into the competition’s last four for the first time.
“We will have a full capacity here,” he said. “The fans, for different reasons, have not been involved 100 per cent in this competition but as we continue further they will do it. They know it is a very important achievement for the club.”
Fans’ body the 1984 Group said there was “huge concern” that £60 seats for the PSG clash could lead to even more expensive tickets were City to progress, and banners protesting at prices were visible in Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League win over West Brom.
Some City supporters have also taken to booing the Champions League anthem to voice their antipathy towards European chiefs Uefa, although Pellegrini joked that there were grounds to encourage it.
“It depends if you are superstitious or not,” the Chilean added. “If you are superstitious, we continue winning when they boo the anthem.”
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Pellegrini gave striker Sergio Aguero a clean bill of health despite him suffering a foot injury late in the West Brom game, while playmaker David Silva is fit again following an ankle problem.
A creaking defence poses greater risk to City, with captain Vincent Kompany unfit to play despite training yesterday, though Pellegrini insists Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala are able deputies.
“I am absolutely confident because with this defence we played a lot of games here in the Premier League and in the Champions League and if we are in this stage it is because we have good defenders,” he said. “We have had a lot of injuries but I trust 100 per cent in the players who can play.”
PSG, who have already clinched the French top-flight title, are without suspended duo David Luiz and Blaise Matuidi, while coach Laurent Blanc said injury-dogged midfielder Marco Verrati would need “a miracle” to play.
They too are seeking a first passage to the Champions League semi-finals, having found their progress barred at the last eight stage for the last three seasons.