Man City in 'crisis' after tempestuous defeat
Pellegrini launches inquest after 2-1 loss to CSKA Moscow in which two players were dismissed
Manchester City 1 CSKA Moscow 2. It's official. Manchester City are in crisis. Just a few minutes after watching his side suffer a 2-1 defeat at home to CSKA Moscow, Sky Blues manager Manuel Pellegrini declared: "It is a crisis of confidence and we must find out why by talking to the players every day."
Though City's form has been patchy all season – dumped out of the Capital One Cup by Newcastle and league defeats to Stoke and West Ham – it's their Champions League form that has been the most shocking.
Winless in four matches this campaign, City lie bottom of Group E with two points, ten shy of leaders Bayern, who beat Roma 2-0 last night, and two behind the Italians and CSKA. Incredibly, City could still qualify for the knockout phase if they win their final two games and other results go their way.
But don't bank on it. Pellegrini isn't, issuing what could hardly be described as a call to arms. "You can never imagine you are out when the maths says you are still in," he muttered. "We must try to work hard and get back to our normal style of play."
But it will take more than just a few more additional sessions on the training ground to sort out City's European problems. There appears to be some sort of mental blockage for a club that has failed to make it out of the group stage in the last three seasons. "We must try to find out what happens with this team in the Champions League," said Pellegrini. "These players are important players so I don't understand why they cannot play in the Champions League."
Whatever the outcome of Pellegrini's inquest into Wednesday night's defeat, City will be without Fernandinho and Yaya Toure for the visit of Bayern at the end of this month, both of whom were sent off in a tempestuous second half at the Etihad.
Toure was shown a straight red for putting his hand in the face of Roman Eremenko – a stupid act for which he later apologized on Twitter – while Fernandinho got his marching orders for two fouls in quick succession.
Throw in the fact that City striker Sergio Aguero had two penalty claims refused late on, and Greek referee Tasos Sidiropolous failure to show CSKA's Pontus Wernbloom a second yellow (he mistakenly cautioned Sergei Ignashevich) and Pellegrini could have been forgiven for railing against the officials. But the 62-year-old Chilean is experienced enough to know his side's problems can't be so easily fobbed off.
"The difference was not just the referee. I don't want to have any excuses about the way we played," he explained. "It is more important for me to analyse why we are not playing in the way we normally play."
City's executioner was Seydou Doumbia, whose first-half double means that the Ivorian has scored five times against City in four Champions League matches. His first came on two minutes, his second on 34 minutes, and he might have had more if he'd kept his composure. In the end it didn't matter. All City could muster was Toure's free kick on eight minutes – atonement of sorts for Toure, whose slack marking had allowed Doumbia the space to head CSKA in front and set CSKA on their way to their first win in England
Toure's redemption didn't last long. His crass challenge on Eremenko was an act born of frustration and as he trudged down the tunnel he almost certainly took with him City's hopes of making it through to the last 16.