Man City cautious of old lady

Manchester City, with Raheem Sterling (on the ball), Vincent Kompany and Wilfried Bony (right) in training, could be hobbled by the absence of the injured Sergio Aguero up front. They have been warned to be wary of Juventus who have not won yet since the
Manchester City, with Raheem Sterling (on the ball), Vincent Kompany and Wilfried Bony (right) in training, could be hobbled by the absence of the injured Sergio Aguero up front. They have been warned to be wary of Juventus who have not won yet since the Seria A started. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Pellegrini warns that the Champs League motivates teams to do well

It is Monday morning, but there is hardly anything blue about the mood around Manchester City's training ground at the City Football Academy complex.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart is seen playfully hugging midfielder Yaya Toure as they share a laugh on the training pitch. Captain Vincent Kompany is also in good spirits.

All is well at City and the reason is crystal clear: They have enjoyed an unblemished start to the season to sit pretty at the top of the English Premier League (EPL).

And they will be hoping that their domestic form will give them a boost as they begin their Champions League campaign tonight against Italian champions Juventus - nicknamed Old Lady - at the Etihad Stadium.

Defending Europa League champions Sevilla and German side Borussia Moenchengladbach are the other Group D sides in what has been described as the "group of death" in this year's competition.  

City are in red-hot form - they are the only team in Europe's top five leagues to have a 100 per cent winning record, scoring 11 times and not conceding any.

When asked by The Straits Times why his side have made such a start to their season, City manager Manuel Pellegrini says: "I don't think there is just one reason. First of all, we have a very good squad.

"Secondly, what happened last season with us not winning silverware was important for this team.

"We started the season knowing that we cannot go two years without winning a trophy. All the players want to demonstrate that they do not want a repeat of last season.

"I hope this will be the case not just for the first five matches but throughout the season."

Since qualifying for their first Champions League campaign in the 2011-12 season, City have not enjoyed the best of spells in Europe's elite competition.

In the four seasons they had competed in the Champions League, they had exited in the group stages twice. The furthest they had gone is the round of 16, where they fell to Barcelona on both occasions.

Kompany wants that to change this season. "Nobody in this club left the Champions League satisfied last year, even though we were beaten by a really strong team," says the Belgian defender.

"This is another year and another season of hope. We have to bring the confidence from the EPL into the Champions League.

"We need to take that energy and hunger we have shown in our matches so far into tomorrow's game. It is a very important game for us."

Already, City are hampered by the injury absence of key striker Sergio Aguero, even though David Silva and Raheem Sterling are fit for tonight's tie.

Still, Juventus have been anything but impressive this season. They are winless in three matches in the new Italian Serie A season.

However, Pellegrini has warned his side against complacency, saying: "I don't think we should see too much into Juventus' form.

"They may not have started well in the league but this is a different competition.

"Players are motivated by this competition. We have to go step by step. We have to win Juventus tomorrow and then try to qualify from the group.

"What happens after that and how far we will go, we will see that at the next step."

MANCHESTER CITY v JUVENTUS
Singtel TV Ch112, tomorrow, 2.45am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2015, with the headline 'CITY CAUTIOUS OF OLD LADY'. Print Edition | Subscribe