There was a time when a Manchester City manager did not require a passport for his job. Manuel Pellegrini has two and, unfortunately, he brought the wrong one to Manchester Airport for the club’s first Champions League trip of the season.
Since Pellegrini lives in Hale, a few miles from the terminal, it did not delay the club’s journey to Mönchengladbach. However, he would hope this is the only embarrassment he suffers.
Borussia Mönchengladbach may be one of the famous names in Europe but they are the weakest team in what for City is another difficult group. Should they follow up an opening defeat by Juventus by losing here, Pellegrini’s passport may not be required for much longer. That defeat by Juve at the Etihad Stadium had greater repercussions than the loss of another three points. It saw their captain, Vincent Kompany, go off with a calf injury. City were drawing 1-1 with the Italian champions at the time. Alvaro Morata’s late goal was followed up by Premier League defeats at home to West Ham and, after a disastrous second half, at Tottenham.
Kompany did not make the flight to Germany and with Seville to come twice they cannot afford many more errors. Pellegrini called this evening’s encounter “not a final but a very important game”.
“Vincent is a very important player,” he added. “He is our captain and he started the season very well but I don’t think one player can be that crucial. We won our last six games of last season without Vincent. It is the amount of injuries we have had that has been more important than just losing Vincent. We have a strong squad but not strong enough to sustain 11 injuries.”
At least he has been able to see Kevin de Bruyne quell the doubts over the £55m fee charged by Wolfsburg. De Bruyne pointed out that the difference between Wolfsburg and City was that in Germany he had to take more responsibility. With Kompany absent and the home fans promising a “Hexenkessel” or witches’ cauldron at Borussia Park, that may have to change.
Pellegrini walked out of his last press conference at White Hart Lane and if he was in a calmer mood – the passport mix-up was told with a smile – he is still irritated by suggestions that City, for all their money, are perennial strugglers in the Champions League.
“I don’t think we fail in Europe,” he said. “We have qualified for the last two knockout stages and lost to Barcelona, the best team in the world. We have beaten Bayern twice in that time. Last season we won our last two matches, against Bayern and at Roma, so we know how to do it. Juventus was a strange game.”
Strange would be an apt word to describe Mönchengladbach’s season. A team that enjoyed two epic European finals against Liverpool have not competed at Europe’s top table for 37 years. Their manager, Lucien Favre, came in to save them from relegation in 2011, before taking them into the Europa League and then the Champions League.
No sooner had the ghosts of Günter Netzer and Berti Vogts been stirred than Borussia fell apart, losing six successive games, which triggered Favre’s resignation and his replacement by André Schubert, coach of the Under-23 side, as a caretaker. Schubert orchestrated two wins to take them off the bottom of the Bundesliga but this is still a side that even a club that travels as badly in Europe as City – five wins in 14 away games – would expect to beat.