LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is expecting to face the “real Sevilla” in Wednesday’s Champions League clash after the Spanish side made a poor start to their domestic campaign.
Sevilla have European pedigree having won back-to-back Europa League trophies, but they are currently 13th in Spain’s La Liga having won only two of their opening eight games.
Their league form has picked up recently, however, and a 2-1 victory over Barcelona at the start of October has led Pellegrini to expect a difficult encounter at the Etihad Stadium.
“Everyone thought that Sevilla would be better in the Spanish League at the moment, but for different reasons they didn’t start well,” Pellegrini told a news conference on Tuesday.
“But they beat Barcelona, it is not easy. So I spoke with the players this morning, we are sure that tomorrow we will play against the real Sevilla.
“I am sure that at the end of the season we will see Sevilla again fighting to qualify for the next Champions League. They have important players and a good manager.”
City and Sevilla both have three points in Group D with one win from their opening games and play each other in back-to-back fixtures that Pellegrini expects to be pivotal for the outcome of the group.
“After that (two fixtures against Sevilla), we have to play two games more, but at the moment I think these two games will decide one of the teams that will qualify,” the Chilean said.
City will be without prolific striker Sergio Aguero, who Pellegrini confirmed will be out for another month with a hamstring injury, as well as playmaker David Silva for Wednesday’s clash.
In previous seasons, City’s home form in Europe has proved to be their Achilles heel, having won only five of their 15 Champions League games at the Etihad Stadium.
Pellegrini knows they will need to improve on that to challenge for Champions League glory.
“I don’t know the exact statistics but we must improve (our Champions League home form),” he said.
“We are just thinking about this game, not the past. I hope we are just thinking about the game tomorrow. All the other things are statistics or history that will not help us to win or lose.”
(Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Rex Gowar)