Barca vs City: Where did Pellegrini go wrong?

Published: February 21, 2014
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FC Barcelona celebrates after winning against Manchester City. PHOTO: AFP

I was honestly left disappointed as Manchester City was rightfully defeated by their charismatic and powerful opponents. And as much as Pellegrini would like to put the blame on the referee, there were a few but very blatant mistakes in his own game plan as well. 

Firstly, when you play a side like FC Barcelona or Bayern Munich or even Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), you simply cannot go with a single forward and even more so, if that striker has truly limited capabilities like Alvaro Negredo.

He missed three really good chances to score and that too against a side as good as Barca which is simply monumental considering the high amount of possession they always have. I have followed Negredo all season, both in the Premier League and in the Champions League, and he has certainly gotten goals. But like Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud, he has been fairly lucky and since you cannot always ride on your luck, his limitations became all the more obvious in the last game.

Negredo has been fairly lucky and since you cannot always ride on your luck, his limitations became all the more obvious in the last game. Photo: Reuters

But this was not just another English Premier League fixture was it?

This was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of encounter with a classy opponent.

In my opinion, Pellegrini should have taken a bold step and given Jovetic a start. Why Jovetic, you ask? After all, the stats clearly say that the Montenegrin has been almost absent in City’s campaigns thus far but considering the paltry appearances he has made, his creative strike against a tough Chelsea side last week shouldn’t be ignored.

Yes, it was just one goal compared to Negredo’s notable tally this season but it was a high-quality effort and ranked much above all of Negredo’s combined efforts. I certainly have nothing against Negredo; his efforts do count and his partnership with Jesus Navas in a couple of games has borne fruit for the team but he is definitely far from precise and needs to be groomed.

Secondly, although I might be the latest entry among many others to take a shot at Martin Demichelis, I won’t shy away from the fact that when he began playing for City this season, I was impressed that Pellegrini had signed a full-back with notable experience and that maturity reflected in his game. But the truth came out in the last game that Demichelis is a mediocre talent, with age certainly not on his side, making him a potential liability. It was his shortcoming in pace which led him to bring down a darting Messi in a hopelessly desperate effort at the edge of the box.

Demichelis is a mediocre talent, with age certainly not on his side, making him a potential liability. Photo: Reuters

Provided that Joleon Lescott makes most of the opportunity expected to be given to him in the next game, Pellegrini should seriously keep the long ‘out of favour’ defender in his first squad for a longer period than Demichelis.

Thirdly, although Fernandinho has always been a slow starter and thankfully he didn’t get injured during the last game, his usual spark was certainly missing. He must have felt overburdened at seeing his side fall through and thus, was rightfully nervous. I personally think that instead of starting with a less confident Fernandinho, Pellegrini should have given James Milner a chance.

After all, his performance against the world’s best, Bayern Munich, earlier in the tournament is of considerable significance and speaks of his potential to rise to the occasion when playing against the big sides.

And lastly, I hate to say it but Pellegrini’s gibe at the referee was way over the top and quite honestly had that awful ‘Mourinho touch’ to it. ‘The Engineer’ – as they call him – has always been a quiet manager who puts up a tough fight and I wish he wouldn’t lose that in managing a high-profile club.

Pellegrini’s gibe at the referee had that awful ‘Mourinho touch’ to it. Photo: Reuters

We certainly don’t need another Mourinho.

As for the loose ends discussed above, I do understand why Pellegrini made those choices and I think even he knows he needs to make some changes now.

City is destined to bounce back but only time will tell whether it will be soon enough to have an impact.

As a fan, I sincerely hope it is.

Nabil Saleh

Nabil Saleh

A research analyst by profession with an avid interest in movies and soccer, he tweets as @nabilsaleh85 (twitter.com/nabilsaleh85)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.