Europa League might await Guardiola

LONDON • Pep Guardiola faces the possibility of managing Manchester City in the Europa League next season, after Manuel Pellegrini's team were humbled in Sunday's Manchester derby.

City's chances of qualifying for the Champions League suffered a blow when they lost their 171st meeting with United. They are currently in fourth place, just a point ahead of West Ham and United.

Their problems deepened further, when goalkeeper Joe Hart and forward Raheem Sterling came off with calf and groin injuries respectively, which Pellegrini said would keep both out for three to four weeks.

That leaves them likely to miss both legs of the club's Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain.

City were expected to push for the Premier League title this year. But, with eight matches of the campaign to go, they are 15 points behind leaders Leicester.

Pellegrini criticised his players after the derby defeat.

"I am not happy with the performance of the team," he said. "It is an important game. We have to play for another 24 points."

He later walked out of a television interview when asked about City's home form.

The Chilean also denied losing his influence over the players since Guardiola was announced as his successor on Feb 1. City have collected just seven points from 21 available since.

The manager tried to present it as a dominant performance that deserved greater reward: 25 goal attempts, against five from United. But there was a lethargy about City, as there has been for a long time.

Individually, man for man, they were not too bad with the notable exception of Martin Demichelis, who had a dreadful outing, but collectively something was lacking.

Call it speed, call it energy, call it organisation, call it a game plan. Whatever it was, it only underlined how right City were to call for Guardiola.

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2016, with the headline 'Europa League might await Guardiola'. Print Edition | Subscribe