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Buoyed by the availability of key duo David Silva and Sergio Agüero, Manchester City FC manager Manuel Pellegrini is calling on his main men to turn it on against title holders FC Bayern München in UEFA Champions League Group D on Wednesday.
Pellegrini expects his team to bounce back from a surprise Premier League loss at the weekend. Bayern coach Josep Guardiola had high praise for his opposite number and hosts City, while applauding Philipp Lahm for slipping into midfield due to an injury crisis.
Manuel Pellegrini, manager
Of course I'm expecting a big response from the players [after Saturday's defeat], I always expect that. We started this Champions League season very well and it's important to continue that. We've now got a game at home against the most difficult team in the group, so we need a big performance.
We know Bayern are strong but we're in good form too and can take the points here. We won't be going on the pitch thinking about drawing – we'll be aiming for the win from the first minute.
I think we need to play at our best and be consistent for 90 minutes, knowing that if we make any errors we can expect to concede from them – so concentration is very important. I think that good players must 'appear' in big games and whoever appears will be key.
It's always a game between the players, it's not me versus Pep [Guardiola]. Football is always changing, the past is the past, so we'll see what happens in the future. Again, I'll repeat, it's not me versus Pep, it's Manchester City versus Bayern. Pep is a great manager and he's at a great club. It's not easy to improve on what they achieved last year, but somehow he will try and bring to Bayern all the characteristics he brought to Barcelona.
Saturday: Aston Villa FC 3-2 Manchester City (El Ahmadi 51, Bacuna 73, Weimann 75; Touré 45, Džeko 56)
Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasić, Kolarov; Milner, Touré, Fernandinho, Nasri (Jesús Navas 66); Džeko (Jovetić 74), Negredo.
• City have won just one of their four away games in all competitions this season. At home they have four victories from four, scoring 15 and conceding only once in the process.
Silva is available for the first time since picking up a thigh injury at the end of August. Agüero is also fit having missed Saturday's loss to Villa.
Josep Guardiola, coach
City are one of the biggest teams in Europe: I'm confident they will get through this time. I know the coach and some of their players, like Silva, [Jesús] Navas and [Álvaro] Negredo, while Yaya Touré was with me at Barcelona. But they also have other great players such as [Joe] Hart and [Vincent] Kompany.
[My record against Pellegrini teams] is not important tomorrow. I'm really impressed by Manuel as whichever team he's coaching he gets them playing the same way. He always puts his stamp on the team – he did it at Villarreal, Málaga and Real Madrid. If he's never beaten me it's because I was coaching one of the best teams in the world, maybe of all time, in Barcelona. I love playing against Manuel: his teams play football and keep the ball on the ground, I can't wait until kick-off.
Last season Bayern won everything, but they already had thousands of trophies in their cabinet, so one more or one less doesn't make too much difference. But I enjoy my work when my team play well, and at the weekend we won 1-0 but didn't play well, so I wasn't comfortable with that. We need to try and play well regularly, but it's impossible to find consistency with only one midfielder: Toni Kroos.
That's why I'm lucky to have Lahm who could come in and play that position, while it's important players like [Mario] Götze, Javi Martínez, Basti [Schweinsteiger] and Thiago [Alcántara] are all coming back now. I'm so happy my team have been managing to win games without midfielders: you can still win games with the right strikers and defenders but you can't play well without midfielders.
Manchester City have taken big steps forward in the last few years, they've won the Premier League and a few other trophies. I bet you this year they reach the last 16 for the first time and, if they do, they will be one of toughest opponents and maybe go a long way. I don’t know why but I have the feeling this will happen.
Saturday: Bayern 1-0 VfL Wolfsburg (Müller 63)
Neuer; Rafinha, Boateng, Dante, Alaba; Lahm; Robben (Shaqiri 62), Müller, Schweinsteiger (Kroos 62), Ribéry; Mandžukić (Kirchhoff 86).
• Bayern remain unbeaten at home in the Bundesliga since 28 October last year thanks to Thomas Müller's first goal of the campaign. They have won all 12 of their home league games in 2013, scoring 41 and shipping six.
Götze returned to the substitutes' bench against Wolfsburg for the first time in three weeks but did not feature. Of Schweinsteiger, Guardiola added: "Basti is getting better every day fortunately. We've had, what, maybe 200 training sessions [since I arrived], but Basti has only done 25–30 so it's normal he's not in top condition yet."
• Pellegrini failed to beat Guardiola's FC Barcelona as coach of Real Madrid CF, nor did he manage it with Villarreal CF or Málaga CF. City's five-year unbeaten home run in Europe does offer cause for optimism, as does a 3-0 win at FC Viktoria Plzeň on matchday one, their first opening-day success in the competition.
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