Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini reflected on an crucial tactical tweak that inspired a dominant 3-1 win at Sevilla and qualification from Champions League Group D.
Pellegrini caused a pre-match stir by dropping record signing Kevin De Bruyne – who got the winner in the 2-1 home triumph over the Liga side – to the bench and selecting Fernando to bolster his central midfield.
Instead of lining up in a holding two alongside Brazil international Fernandinho as expected, Fernando sat to allow his compatriot and Yaya Toure to storm forward to devastating effect during the opening stages.
Fernandinho set up Raheem Sterling’s eighth-minute opener and got himself on the scoresheet three minutes later.
Benoit Tremoulinas pulled a goal back for the Europa League holders, but Wilfried Bony restored a two-goal advantage that City did not relinquish – displaying a level of control they have rarely achieved in European competition.
“The team changed in the way we were playing – I changed the system because I was not happy in the way we were playing,” Pellegrini told BT Sport.
“In the way the three midfielders played – we played with two forward and just one back so we could press high and build up [pressure] on Sevilla.
“We prepared the play to touch [the ball] with one touch and move into space and that seemed to be the reason why we created so many chances.
“I am very happy in the way we played a very good game, in all senses.
“We scored three goals, we missed at least three or four chances to score more goals, we defended well, we had good possession.”
Juventus’ draw against Borussia Monchengladbach sealed City’s passage to the last 16 and Pellegrini is keen to chalk up a fourth straight victory in the competition in Turin next time out to secure a potentially more favourable knockout draw.
“I think it is very important to qualify for the next stage,” the Chilean added. “We are still trying to qualify in first position in the group.”
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