City's hope to avoid top foes in last 16 takes a hit

TURIN (Italy) • Manchester City were left facing the prospect of another unforgiving draw for the knockout phase of the Champions League after conceding their second successive defeat to Juventus in a 1-0 reverse on Wednesday.

A first-half strike from Mario Mandzukic saw Juventus into the last 16 with a dominant display in Turin to drop already-qualified City into second place in Group D at two points adrift.

City have never finished top of their Champions League qualifying group and last season were eliminated in the knockout round by eventual champions Barcelona.

They must now defeat Borussia Moenchengladbach and hope Sevilla beat Juventus in the closing round to make a breakthrough, and City manager Manuel Pellegrini put a positive spin on his side's chances.

"We have to see what Juventus will do against Sevilla," said Pellegrini, who also complained that his defender Nicolas Otamendi was fouled by Mandzukic before the Croatian scored.

"It will be a very difficult game they must play away. Sevilla have to win that game to try to qualify for the Europa League.

"There's one game more and the group is not finished."

To boot, City lost goalkeeper Joe Hart to injury with 10 minutes remaining and he is now doubtful for this weekend's game at home to Southampton.

"He has a problem with his hamstring, I don't know if it's for the hamstring, or because he's been carrying a back problem for the last week," added the Chilean.

In contrast, everything went according to plan for Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri.

His decision to field a three-man defence, to put Alex Sandro on the left of midfield and to start with Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala as a two-man strike force all paid off.

"It wasn't an easy group. Borussia (Moenchengladbach) had a fantastic last season and Manchester are a technical side with top players," Allegri said.

"It's never easy to win a Champions League game.

"We've done that, again while not conceding a goal at home.

"We're proud of that statistic so the lads deserve all the credit they get."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2015, with the headline 'City's hope to avoid top foes in last 16 takes a hit'. Print Edition | Subscribe