By Mark Meadows
Manchester City have gone through so much torture in the Champions League in recent seasons that the chance to wrap up knockout stage qualification with two games to spare must seem like a dream.
But that is exactly the scenario awaiting the Premier League leaders as they travel to Sevilla in Group D on Tuesday and coach Manuel Pellegrini is demanding a win despite knowing full well how intimidating the Sanchez Pizjuan can be.
“We are not going to try to draw the game, we are going to try and win the game from the beginning,” Pellegrini told a news conference on Monday.
Having beaten Sevilla at home last time out and head-to-heads being all important, City will qualify for the last 16 if they win against Sevilla and Juventus beat Borussia Monchengladbach in the other group game.
Their situation contrasts markedly with the last few seasons when big spending City limped out in the group stages and only staggered into the last 16 last term where they lost to Barcelona.
Former Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga boss Pellegrini knows all about La Liga’s Sevilla, who put on a show to beat champions Barcelona 2-1 at home last month.
“Sevilla have a great stadium with a great atmosphere and they’ve got some fantastic players. We know we’re going up against a team that plays very well,” the Chilean said.
Pellegrini confirmed that Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta remain injured but Fabian Delph is back in the squad as debate rages among City fans over the merits of playing two holding midfielders in Europe.
“It’s important this team is prepared to play in different ways – there’s lots of players that can play in different positions,” added the coach.
New City centre-back Nicolas Otamendi has impressed in recent weeks with his towering, powerful performances and the ex-Valencia man knows another strong showing is necessary back in Spain.
“We know they are a top team. We need to be disciplined, not just in attack, but in defence,” the Argentina defender, who scored in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat of Norwich that kept City top of the Premier League, said.
“At home, Sevilla like to put the visitors under a lot of pressure. Teams who come here have to be at their very best.”