Why Pellegrini’s Barcelona record makes City sacking a possibility
Five points off the pace in the Premier League and facing Barcelona in Europe, on the face of it backing Manuel Pellegrini to lose his job seems a bold call but there is plenty to suggest that Champions League failure could prove fatal.
The Citizens go into Tuesday’s first-leg against the Catalans in good voice following a 5-0 victory over Newcastle while Barca will be looking to bounce back from defeat to Malaga at the weekend.
But Pellegrini and City were in a similar position 12 months ago, when they met Barcelona at the very same stage of the competition.
Managed by Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino at the time, there was speculation of unrest in the ranks, while Barca went into both games off the back of disappointments in La Liga and the Copa del Rey.
Real Sociedad had held the Catalans to a 1-1 draw in the Spanish Cup in the run up to the first leg against City and would go on to beat Martino’s team 3-1 in the league in the time between their two European encounters with the Sky Blues that season.
Even a shock 1-0 loss to lowly Rayo Vallecano in the build-up to the return fixture could do little to prevent Barcelona winning the tie 4-1 on aggregate with a 2-0 victory at the Etihad followed up by a 2-1 win at Camp Nou.
More importantly ahead of this latest instalment in the ongoing battle between City and Barca, those two results continued Pellegrini’s miserable run against the club.
Having previously managed Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga in La Liga, the Chilean has plenty of experience when it comes to playing against the Catalans though he has rarely got the better of them.
In 22 Spanish Primera Division meetings with Barca, Pellegrini has won just four times, picking up a further four draws and losing the 14 other encounters between the teams.
Yet despite enjoying some notable successes in the early days – Pellegrini took charge of a 3-0 win for Villarreal against a team managed by Frank Rijkaard – the truth is that the South American coach has struggled against the Catalans in recent times.
During his stint with Malaga, Pellegrini picked up just one draw from eight meetings and going into this week’s encounter, the Engineer has suffered defeat in 12 of his last 14 encounters with Barcelona.
A significant first-leg defeat to the Catalans could therefore be enough to see Pellegrini emerge as a shock casualty in the ‘next manager to leave his post market’ with the Chilean currently 33/1 at Ladbrokes.
City Football Group have made no secret of their desire to promote the City brand on a global scale with European success a key component of their strategy.
Pellegrini was recruited to the club to try and replicate the success he enjoyed at Villarreal and Malaga in this competition with the idea that City’s riches could help the South American coach go one step further than he did with those two La Liga minnows.
But exit early and the Chilean’s record this season could end up being a near-mirror-image of Roberto Mancini’s during his final campaign at the club – minus an FA Cup final appearance.
Exit the Champions League early and, after a dismal group campaign salvaged at the last, the City hierarchy could therefore opt to cut their losses on Pellegrini – stranger things have happened.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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