James Milner has confirmed suspicions surrounding Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini, confessing the team did not know a 4-2 win over Bayern Munich would have earned them top spot in their Champions League group.
City launched an inspirational comeback to beat the European champions 3-2 in Germany. However, a further goal would have seen them qualify as group winners by virtue of the fact they would have scored more away goals than Bayern managed at the Etihad.
Pellegrini did not appear to know that was the case in either his post-match interview or press conference, hinting he felt City needed to win 5-2 to usurp Bayern:
Doubts remained over whether Pellegrini’s interview might have been lost in translation, but Milner has since confirmed City misjudged the situation. Tim Rich of the Independent provides the quotes:
We knew roughly. We didn’t know if 4-2 would be enough or if we would need 5-2. We thought it needed to be 5-2 to be honest.
We are slightly disappointed we did not finish top of the group but to be slightly disappointed at beating Bayern Munich on their own ground is pretty pleasing.
Signs of confusion began to emerge when, with City leading 3-2, they opted to take a striker off in the final minutes to be replaced by a midfielder in Jack Rodwell.
Pellegrini had top scorer Sergio Aguero on the bench, yet he opted not to use the Argentine, seemingly accepting that City did not have time to score the two goals he felt they needed to top the group.
Think that puzzles me most is idea that City were bound to have scored a fourth goal if Pellegrini had made a certain substitution.— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) December 11, 2013
There is obviously nothing that guarantees Aguero’s introduction would have changed the eventual scoreline, but Pellegrini’s gaffe will undoubtedly be highlighted again if City now face a nightmare draw in the round of 16.
The following table shows the teams City can be drawn against, based on how the groups stand right now. They are limited to four options, based on the fact members of their own association—Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal—top the other three groups. They also cannot draw Bayern.
|Teams City Can Draw as Runners-up||Potential draw as group winners|
|Real Madrid||Bayer Leverkusen|
|*Not all teams have guaranteed qualification|
Given the many internet articles that work out Champions League permutations nowadays, it seems incredible that a top club like City could make such an oversight.
However, few expected them even to defeat Bayern, let alone score three times to put themselves in position to make the mathematical equations become reality.
City will find the incident embarrassing. However, given the fact they just beat the European champions, they will likely fancy their chances against anyone in the next round.