CSKA's empty stands 'won't help' City
MANCHESTER City manager Manuel Pellegrini says playing in an empty stadium will not help his side when they visit CSKA Moscow for their potentially decisive Champions League match today.
European football's governing body Uefa has ordered CSKA to play the game behind closed doors because of racist behaviour by their fans - something City have direct experience with after Yaya Toure was on the receiving end of verbal abuse when the clubs met last season.
But Pellegrini does not believe this will give the English Premier League champions, still struggling to make their mark on Europe's elite club competition, an advantage in the Russian capital.
"That affects football. I don't think it is the best way to play, not only for our team, but also for the Russian team," he said.
"Football is about the fans. It is the most important thing because they give an atmosphere at the stadium which is different to that of an empty stadium. It will be a different experience, but that cannot affect our performance."
City badly need victories in both their matches against CSKA, having been beaten by Bayern Munich and drawn at home to Roma in their opening Group E fixtures.
"We have two games against CSKA and we need to win both of them," admitted Pellegrini.
"The best way is to treat every game as a final, try to win it and then win the next final," added the Chilean.
Defender Eliaquim Mangala was expected to travel despite a thigh injury, but midfielder Samir Nasri was due to stay behind while recovering from groin surgery.
The other English team in Champions League action today are Chelsea, who should have an easier time than City given that they are hosting Slovenian minnows Maribor at Stamford Bridge.
Still, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is not taking success for granted, particularly since Maribor held both Schalke and Sporting Lisbon in their earlier Group G encounters.
He has also seen his side slip up at home in Group G, with Klaas Jan Huntelaar punishing the Blues for failing to make more of a number of chances by scoring Schalke's equaliser in the 1-1 draw in the opening game of their latest European campaign.
"For Tuesday, I cannot make lots of changes because I cannot break the balance of the team. It's an important match for us to win to finish the first three matches with seven points," said the Portuguese. "I can make a couple of changes. But I don't think I'm going to have any of the injured players back. I don't think Ramires will be available, Andre Schurrle, Diego Costa for sure are not available."
Nemanja Matic, the match winner against Sporting, has no doubt about the threat posed by a Maribor side that, on paper at least, should be regarded as the weakest team in the group.
"Nobody expected Maribor to take points off Sporting and Schalke - but they did and showed that in football, there are no favourites. So, until the end, I expect hard work," the Serbia midfielder said. "But I hope we will win every game and...make it to the next round."