Manuel Pellegrini calls on Manchester City to lay down marker against Juventus

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Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini believes his team can reach another important milestone by beating Juventus and topping their Champions League group.

Pellegrini has overseen City's two best Champions League campaigns by reaching the last 16 in the past two seasons but now accepts expectations have grown.

The quarter-finals are now a minimum target and Pellegrini knows his side may have a better chance of getting to that stage if they advance as group winners.

They are now in prime position to do just that having gone top of Group D with three successive wins.

With their place in the knockout phase already secured with two games to spare, they can clinch first place with victory in Turin on Wednesday. In theory that could therefore spare them the kind of tough draw that has pitted them against Barcelona in successive seasons.

Pellegrini said: "Everyone criticises this club for the performance in Europe.

"It is important for us to have important achievements. One of the achievements was to qualify for the round of 16 for the last three years. Before that we couldn't do it.

"This year it is important to qualify first because it is one step more in Europe. We have two spare games to try to win the group.

"It is also important to win the group against Juventus away because that is a good test for the future in the Champions League. I think it is important for the club."

Pellegrini, speaking at his pre-match press conference at the Juventus Stadium, acknowledged the importance of Sergio Aguero to his club's ambitions.

The Argentina striker marked his return to action after a seven-game absence with a stunning goal in Saturday's otherwise dispiriting 4-1 thrashing by Liverpool on Saturday.

Even though City fared reasonably well in the 27-year-old's absence, Pellegrini knows what a difference his star forward makes.

The Chilean said: "Of course we must be able to play without Sergio.

"We have already demonstrated we can do it without him. For the last month and a half Sergio could not play and we qualified for the next stage of the Champions League, we were top of the Premier League until last Saturday, we qualified in the Capital One Cup.

"But, without doubt, with Sergio this team is a better team. If we want to arrive to important stages of not only the Champions League, but all competitions we play, we need Sergio fit. If he can play all the games it is better for us."

While Aguero is now back in action, City remain without a number of other senior players in captain Vincent Kompany, playmaker David Silva, striker Wilfried Bony and defenders Pablo Zabaleta and Eliaquim Mangala. Samir Nasri is a long-term absentee.

"We have a difficult situation," Pellegrini said, when asked about injuries.


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