Manuel Pellegrini wants to avoid any doubts that Matchday 5 offers his Villarreal CF side the chance to play out a gentle draw with Manchester United FC even though such a result would assure both teams advance.
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Manuel Pellegrini wants to avoid any doubts that Matchday 5 offers his Villarreal CF side the chance to play out a gentle draw with European champions Manchester United FC even though such a result would assure both teams of progressing to the knockout stage.
The Yellow Submarine's Chilean coach is famed for setting stern standards for his players and Pellegrini remains clear-cut in his assessment of the task in hand. "The worst possible way to qualify for the next round would be to go out and try to play for a draw," he said on the eve of the match at El Madrigal. "It's an intelligent thing to try and win the group because it brings you a slight advantage later in the tournament. While it wouldn't be any kind of disaster to go through in second place, the fact is that a victory over Manchester United would be an excellent result for us." Each of the clubs, who will be playing their fourth UEFA Champions League tie in three years and are still in search of a first goal in the fixture, has important absences to cope with.
The holders travelled to Spain without goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who will be replaced by Tomasz Kuszczak, Gary Neville and Dimitar Berbatov, while strikers Nihat Kahveci and Joseba Llorente, who has three goals in Group E, are both missing for Villarreal. However, defence as much as attack would seem to threaten the Liga side's chances of registering that sought-after victory. Having shown an admirably stingy return of conceding only three times in their first nine matches in all competitions, 22 goals have flooded in during the last nine. Pellegrini understands that United are opponents set-up to punish such flaws. "Alex Ferguson's teams always go after the game, they play to win," he said. "That makes their speed of moving the ball and their determination to win the ball back very quickly once they've lost it a real test to play against. I've got great admiration for the style of football he demands from his side."
The Scot reciprocates Pellegrini's professional esteem for him. "There are good signs that Manuel is creating his own identity at Villarreal," Sir Alex said. "You get that with Arsène Wenger at Arsenal, you got it with Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest and perhaps you get that with me at United. He's doing the same thing. To finish second in their league without the massive resources of FC Barcelona, Real Madrid or Valencia is tremendous and born of fantastic consistency." United, who drew 0-0 at Aston Villa FC in the Premier League on Saturday, will not heed the call of the Manchester derby this weekend, according to their manager, and will place total emphasis on winning in Spain in order to dominate the group. "We're here to win," he said. "The derby game won't come into my thinking because there are five days between the matches. It's important to me that we finish top of Group E."