CSKA Moscow vs Manchester City: Yaya Toure ready to deliver on return to scene of controversial incident

The Ivorian was racially abused by supporters there last season

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes Yaya Toure is ready to deliver as he returns to the scene of last year's Russian controversy.

Toure was racially abused by home supporters when City played CSKA Moscow at Khimki Arena in the Champions League last October.

He will now take to the same field again almost exactly a year on after this season's draw pitted City in the same group as the Russian champions.

The crowd will not be a factor this time as the game takes place behind closed doors as a result of further offences by CSKA supporters.

Instead the focus is on a game City need to win to ignite their campaign, as well as the form of Toure.

The Ivory Coast international has still not returned to his formidable best after a difficult summer but Pellegrini has seen encouraging signs.

The City boss said: "I don't agree that Yaya has had a bad season.

"Maybe if you compare his performances this year to last season, when he had a brilliant performance, maybe he just needs time to get back to that level.

"But he continues to be a very important player for our team, especially as he showed two games ago against Aston Villa.

"Every game he is playing better. He had a very complicated summer, but I think now he is arriving back towards his normal performance.

"But I don't think this team just depends on one player. If we didn't play well in some games before, it's because the whole team didn't play well, not only Yaya."

Toure's performances have sparked debate over his best position, and whether he would not be better playing in a permanent advanced role, free of defensive responsibilities.

But Pellegrini said: "He can play both positions but he will continue in the position where, last season, he was the best player in the Premier League."

Pellegrini feels it is a shame Tuesday's game will be played in a near-empty stadium.

It is the first of three more European home matches CSKA have been ordered to play behind closed doors after three offences in the past year, although the club are appealing.

The Chilean said: "It is a pity that we cannot play with fans. This is a showpiece for fans.

"It will be a very strange game, with only the players shouting on the pitch.

"We have no option and we must play that way, and many may think the local team will suffer the most damage, but I think the biggest loser is the game of football."

City have collected just one point from their opening two Group E games against Bayern Munich and Roma and can ill afford to drop many more points in their upcoming back-to-back games against CSKA.

CSKA are also anxious for victory having lost both their openers but their striker Ahmed Musa has expressed confidence, saying the English champions are "very weak", particularly in defence.

Pellegrini said: "I think CSKA are a big team here, they play attacking football and we have to be focused on our defending if we are to keep a clean sheet."

Right-back Pablo Zabaleta, who represented City alongside Pellegrini at the pre-match press conference, explained City's defensive approach.

The Argentinian said: "We like to play as an attacking team, but we sometimes leave space at the back.

"It would be great to leave players at the back, but we like to push high and that leaves space in behind.

"It is the way we like to play and we are not going to change but we have great defenders, great players, and a great back four."

Zabaleta admits the atmosphere will be unusual but is focused on helping to deliver a result.

The 29-year-old said: "It will be strange. Most of the players haven't had this situation, but we have to motivate ourselves because we know how important the game is for ourselves.

"We just have to get the three points out of this game."

City are in their fourth season of Champions League football and are still to make an impact in the competition. After their previous disappointments there was a feeling they needed to come of age this term but their results have again been underwhelming.

Zabaleta, however, insists City will not ease up in their drive to progress.

He said: "We are improving year by year, with a great group of players, but to win this competition is so difficult.

"It is one that you would love to win, but you have to work really hard to do it and we have to learn from the mistakes we have made in the last years to make progress."

The other controversy surrounding last year's game at CSKA, which City came from behind to win 2-1, was over the poor state of the pitch.

Pellegrini said: "I have no concerns this year. It is not a bad pitch and I don't think we will have any problems with it."