Returning match-winner Samir Nasri has voiced his frustration at having to sit out Manchester City’s Champions League clash with PSG.
The Frenchman had no issues with manager Manuel Pellegrini’s decision not to include him in the squad for the knockout stages of the Champions League as he faced a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
But having returned sooner than expected following surgery on a serious thigh injury last October, and scored the winner in a 2-1 home defeat of the Baggies, Nasri admits he would have relished facing his countrymen.
PSG head to the Etihad Stadium for the second leg of their quarter-final tie this week after a compelling 2-2 draw in France last Wednesday.
“It was something I was really okay with,” said Nasri of his Champions League exclusion, which allowed striker Kelechi Iheanacho to be added. “When I had surgery the target was to maybe play one game before the end of the season.
“We are five weeks ahead of schedule, so I am just happy to be there, playing and to help the team. The only thing is it is PSG and I am from Marseille. That is like United against us.
“But that is just about it. I am going to be with the team and try to help them. It is something historic and you need to think about the big picture, that to be in the last four in Europe is something major.”
Nasri’s prime emotions at the moment are of happiness and relief after making such a successful return to the side.
He did feature as a substitute at Bournemouth last week but his 90-minute appearance on Saturday was his first start since September and only his third of the season.
“It felt amazing,” the 28-year-old said. “I was a bit tired by the end of the game but the fact I started and played again was just great.”
Nasri looked one of City’s livelier players in what was a subdued performance after Pellegrini made five changes for the return to Barclays Premier League action.
City had to come from behind after Stephane Sessegnon fired a superb sixth-minute opener and then, after Sergio Aguero’s penalty and Nasri’s 66th-minute tap-in turned the game, hang on.
Saido Berahino twice went close in the latter stages and James McClean shot just wide in injury time, while Sandro had a strong penalty appeal declined.
But for City the points were important as they try to hold off the challenge of Manchester United for fourth spot and even look to take third from Arsenal.
Nasri said: “It was really important to close the gap with Arsenal, bearing in mind we have to play them at home.
“For us there is no way we cannot play Champions League next year. We want to be part of a big club, being top four every year and one of the best teams in Europe. We have to perform and make sure we play Champions League next year.”
West Brom were left to rue their missed opportunities, but with 40 points to their name and survival guaranteed, thoughts are already turning to next season.
Manager Tony Pulis said: “There has to be improvement in the team for next year, I don’t think anybody can argue with that, but the players have been absolutely fantastic. In most of the games we have played this year they have done really well.
“You have to take criticism but there are reasons for it that hopefully we can address and come back stronger next year. It takes time and we have to get a basis in place. We have done that in a season that has been so unpredictable, so for us to be 40 points and mid-table, the players have done fantastic.”
Pellegrini said a foot injury suffered by Aguero in the latter stages was not serious while David Silva would return on Tuesday. Captain Vincent Kompany, who has been out for the past month, will also be assessed with a view to playing.