Manuel Pellegrini is confident Manchester City can progress to the Champions League final, despite losing David Silva to injury and failing in their bid to get more time to prepare for the return leg against Real Madrid.
Tuesday looked a wonderful opportunity for City to mark their first-ever semi-final appearance with a memorable victory, yet they were unable to capitalise on Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence and were somewhat fortunate to escape with a 0-0 draw.
Only the wonderful reflexes of Joe Hart kept Madrid from snatching an all-important away goal at the Etihad Stadium, where substitute Jese also hit the bar as Real Madrid upped the ante in the second half.
The failure to net at the Etihad Stadium gives City a fighting chance and Pellegrini focused on the positives, despite his side only mustering two shots on target.
“I think it was a very close game,” the City boss said. “We tried from the beginning to win, we pressed high, but we were not very creative, we couldn’t create clear chances to score.
“I don’t think they are favourites. As I said before the game, we have the same option as Real Madrid.
“Of course they have the advantage to play the first game away, so they try to manage the tempo of the game, the pace of the game.
“After that they finish at home but this team play away very similar to how we play here at the Etihad.
“We had good results playing away so we are not afraid to go to Bernabeu and we will see which team plays better that game.”
City may be confident ahead of the second leg, but they will almost certainly have to do without Silva in the Spanish capital after sustaining a first-half injury.
“David had a slight strain in his thigh,” Pellegrini said. “It is difficult to say now (whether he will be involved).
“It is probably tough for him to recover in just one week. We’ll have a clearer idea tomorrow.”
Silva’s expected absence is compounded by frustration after City tried and failed to move Sunday’s trip to Southampton after the draw was made.
The club say they lobbied Sky and the Premier League to alter the 4.30pm kick-off, but their inability to do so means Real Madrid have an extra day’s rest ahead of the second leg.
“They believe in what we are doing so we have to play the second leg in Madrid,” Pellegrini said of his team.
“Before we go to Madrid, we must continue in the Premier League against a difficult team in Southampton.
“Unfortunately for us, maybe we are going to have one day less rest than Real Madrid because they play on Saturday
“We tried change our game but it was impossible so we need to play on Sunday. I am sure we will give all we can to arrive to the final.”
Pellegrini’s line-up at St Mary’s could be interesting given the widespread changes he made after complaining about fixture congestion ahead of February’s FA Cup clash at Chelsea.
There are no such concerns for Real Madrid and head coach Zinedine Zidane believes the chances of progress are “50-50” after failing to net a late winner.
“I am happy with the game,” the Frenchman said. “It has not been easy.
“We defended really well, above all in the second half. We had a couple of chances to score a goal.
“With the chances we had I am a little bit disappointed. We perhaps deserved more.”
Things could have been much different had Zidane been able to call upon Ronaldo and a fully-fit Karim Benzema.
The latter came off at half-time as a knee complaint worsened, while star turn Ronaldo was a surprise absentee due to a thigh issue that played up on the eve of the game.
“We are going to try and get them fit for it but now I can’t assure you of anything,” Zidane said of their second-leg availability.
“I can’t tell you right now if they’ll be fit. We want them to be back and we need to look day but day at how they develop medically.”