Manuel Pellegrini angry at CSKA pitch
ESPN FC Extra Time
Manuel Pellegrini is unhappy with UEFA's "unbelievable" decision to let Manchester City's Champions League clash at CSKA Moscow go ahead despite the state of the pitch.
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Pellegrini's side are in the Russian capital for their Group D clash, which will go ahead at the Arena Khimki despite CSKA's last home game in Europe -- a 3-2 win over Viktoria Plzen -- being moved to St Petersburg due to the sub-standard condition of their own playing surface.
Ahead of Wednesday's game, City boss Pellegrini echoed the concerns of midfielder Fernandinho and questioned UEFA's judgement.
"Of course I’m surprised," he told his prematch news conference. "I’m surprised because they were not allowed to play the other game here, against Plzen.
"I think the people from UEFA who reviewed the pitch without hesitation should have said, 'It cannot be played here'.
"I think it’s unbelievable that the most important cup competition in the world is allowed to be played on this pitch.
"We must pray on Wednesday that it’s not raining. If it’s raining it will be impossible to play on this pitch. It could be called off.
"I didn’t believe it when I saw the pitch. This is the most important competition in the world, and it deserves a better pitch."
However, a UEFA spokesperson insisted that the pitch is good enough for the game to go ahead.
"The pitch has been monitored and inspected over the last weeks and has been deemed playable -- even if it might not look impeccable, aesthetically," the spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror.
"It has recently been considerably improved, thanks to the intensive work of the groundsmen, and we are confident the match will be played under good conditions."
CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky admitted that he is hopeful the pitch might give his side an advantage.
"I suppose the quality of the pitch is equal to the quality of our latest results," he said. "We can hardly beat them on skill."
Meanwhile, Samir Nasri believes City’s two games against CSKA are the pivotal games of the group and said that if they can return from Russia with a win, then they will be halfway to securing qualification for the last 16.
The FA Cup finalists face CSKA on Wednesday before a return fixture in Manchester 13 days later and Nasri feels they are crucial if City are to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time.
Both teams have already beaten minnows Viktoria Plzen but have lost to defending champions Bayern Munich and are level on three points.
And Nasri told City’s official website: "We knew that the two games against CSKA would be like finals because, with respect to Plzen, they are the team who will most likely finish fourth and second spot will probably be between us and CSKA.
"When they played Bayern Munich, they really tried to play some good stuff but because they conceded a goal very early on, it was difficult for them after that
"I don’t think they will change the way play, especially as they are at home, and they have some very good players who are quick up front so it should be an interesting contest. There are many good teams in Russia who try to play football, like we do.
"If we come back from Moscow with a win, we will have done 50% of the job and we would then have a home game against them to come."