Manchester City 0 Barcelona 2 - comment: Manuel Pellegrini can blame the referee, but his cautious approach was to blame for defeat

The Manchester City boss hit out after the Champions League game in which Martin Demichelis was sent off

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The Independent Football

Blaming the ref, the last refuge of the beaten manager. If Jonas Eriksson had not sent off Martin Demichelis all would be well with the Manchester City world is the thrust of it, when in truth Manuel Pellegrini undid himself with his cautious selection.

The City manager fell short of his own mantra, which is to play the ‘City way’ no matter whom is in the house.  For all his positive posturing before the match, ultimately Pellegrini fell into the trap of deference, paying far too much respect to the opposition. This allowed Barcelona to set the agenda when City should have been setting theirs.

If City are to do themselves and the petro-dollar investment justice in Europe they are going to have to drop this sense of gratitude at being here. The backdrop was one of awe at receiving Barcelona in the Champions League for the first time.

They are no longer the club of 15 years ago that played against the likes of Macclesfield. City are among the richest, if not the richest footballing institution on earth, whose ownership could buy Barcelona ten times over and donate Leo Messi as a prize at a charity auction.

Pellegrini opted to play Aleksander Kolarov in a containing role and set the team up to absorb Barcelona possession. As a result City were a pale reflection of the powerful attacking outfit that has rolled all before them, bar Chelsea, in the Premier League.

Only when Demichelis was dispatched were City freed from their shackles, fired by the need to recover the desperate situation that was conceding at home. Only then were Barcelona discomfited by the incisive promptings of David Silva, Yaya Toure and the late introduction of Samir Nasri, who should have been on from the start.


Barcelona are fallible only when attacked. The only way to trouble them is to deny them the ball. They are used to dominating possession and prefer nothing more than a team that sits deep inviting them across the half way line.

City managed to generate a head of steam a couple of times in a sterile opening half, with Toure and Silva at the heart of it, but without any support from Kolarov and too little from the ineffective Jesus Navas, they were unable to establish field position for long enough.

Last night they cast themselves in the Macclesfield role, deferring to the mighty Barca. That is what cost them, not the ref.