Manuel Pellegrini Says CSKA vs. Manchester City Could Be Called off Due to Pitch
Manuel Pellegrini has criticised the state of CSKA Moscow's pitch ahead of their key Champions League clash with Manchester City, according to George Scott of the Daily Star.
City were initially denied permission to train at the Khimki Arena, per Jeremy Cross of the Daily Star. However, following a war of words, the Moscow club eventually relented and permitted the English side access.
Scott details Pellegrini's distinctly unimpressed views after seeing the surface close up:
I just saw the pitch and I think it’s unbelievable that the most important cup competition in the world is allowed to be played on this pitch.
We must pray on Wednesday that it’s not raining. If it’s raining, it will be impossible to play on this pitch.
It could be called off. I didn’t believe it when I saw the pitch, both for the two teams and also for the people who will watch the game.
The game is crucial for City, who will be looking for a response after a demoralising 3-1 defeat against Bayern Munich in their last Champions League outing.
An inconsistent pitch would not only limit the spectacle, but also reduce any gap in quality between the two teams, making the contest a far more even affair.
Stuart James of the The Guardian describes the Khimki Arena as having "large areas of the pitch bare," with "grass seed sitting on the surface."
Pellegrini was surprised UEFA sanctioned the pitch, as Scott reports:
I’m surprised because they were not allowed to play the first home game here against Plzen.
I think the people from UEFA who reviewed the pitch, they should have said it cannot be played here.
The unruly surface would substantially benefit a CSKA side that has shown inconsistent domestic form in the Russian Premier League, having been crowned champions in 2013.
Leonid Slutsky's side currently lie sixth, 11 points behind Zenit St. Petersburg, having won just six of their opening 13 games and scored 12 goals.
How will City fare vs. CSKA?
Pellegrini knows he must secure a result in this game, but Manchester City have been dismal on their travels this season, taking four points from a possible 12 in the Premier League.
Level with CSKA after a win and a loss in Group D, defeat in Russia would leave City three points adrift of qualification and suddenly in danger of a third premature exit from the Champions League.
Given their moderate start to the Premier League season, any sign of European failure would pile considerable pressure on City's new manager.
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