Man City defeat leaves Pellegrini hanging by a thread
Barcelona overpowered the last English contenders, who fail to make the quarter-finals yet again
Barcelona 1 Manchester City 0 [Barcelona win 3-1 on aggregate] The Premier League's last hopes of silverware in the Champions League were ended by a clinical Barcelona display in which Ivan Rakitic scored the game's only goal.
City had a penalty saved late on in the second half but Sergio Aguero's spot-kick was one of the few chances that came the way of the Sky Blues on a night when they were outshone by their opponents.
Barcelona had 23 attempts on the City goal but encountered a goalkeeper in superb form with Joe Hart's heroics keeping the scoreline respectable although there was no doubt who deserved to go through to the last eight.
"I think we lost against a better team without doubt," conceded Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini. "Lionel Messi is very difficult to contain. Maybe we didn't play so well in the first half but we improved in the second and we took risks."
City have now failed to reach the quarter-finals in each of their four Champions League campaigns and this latest defeat means they have lost four of their last five matches in all competitions, a dismal run of form that might well cost Pellegrini his job at the end of the season. Much will depend on whether the reigning Premier League champions can make up the six-point deficit on Chelsea in the next two months, but should the season end without silverware and the Chilean is likely to be packing his bags.
Asked about his future on Wednesday evening, Pellegrini replied: "It's not a distraction. I never worry about me so it's not a distraction."
He also received support from Hart, who told reporters: "We back our manager. He is a great manager and brought us two trophies last year."
The truth is that Barcelona were just too good for City, beating them twice this season to go with their two victories in last season's competition. From the kick-off at the Camp Nou they had City on the back foot with Neymar rattling the post before Messi created the opening for Rakitic to lob Hart just after the half-hour mark.
Luis Suarez came close to doubling Barca's advantage only for his shot to hit the post and for the rest of the evening Hart kept the hosts at bay, making 10 saves in all, a record for an English goalkeeper in the Champions League.
Nonetheless it was all to no avail as Hart's forwards failed to find the goals they required to progress, and Pellegrini was left clutching at straws in the post-match press conference.
"We need to improve in Europe and maybe in the last two years we did improve," he said. "We have gone through to the last 16 and we were very unlucky we played against Barcelona, but at least we qualified [for the knockout stages]."
That will be of little comfort to City's fans, or the club's owners, who won't be impressed with yet another last-16 exit for the world's best-paid team.
It's also another dispiriting result for English football, coming on the back of defeats for Chelsea and Arsenal. As former England captain turned Match of the Day host Gary Lineker tweeted late on Wednesday evening : "Crisis point for Premier League football. If no winter break at least play less games over Xmas and no FA Cup replays beyond 4th round."