Manuel Pellegrini recognises the need for an improved attacking performance from his Manchester City side at Real Madrid this week.
City head to the Bernabeu on Wednesday for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final with the tie delicately poised after a goalless draw at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.
Pellegrini’s sides are generally known for their attacking spirit but they were stymied by the Spanish giants last week and City needed to stay strong at the back.
That was particularly the case in the last 20 minutes as Real, even without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo and with Karim Benzema having been forced off, finished strongly.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart proved the City saviour with two superb late saves to deny Casemiro and Pepe from close range.
“I am very pleased with the team,” said Pellegrini. “When the team works well, all the players in attacking and defending (function).
“Maybe a lot were worried about our defending, (saying) that we were not able to defend in the correct way, but we played against Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid here and they did not score.
“We played with (Eliaquim) Mangala, (Nicolas) Otamendi – all those players that were ‘so bad’ – but they demonstrated they could do it at the top level. Fernando and Fernandinho were exactly the same. They worked very hard, recovered a lot of balls.
“But while all the team played very well, I think we must improve our offensive football if we want to reach the final.
“That is normally what we do better – because we continue being the most scoring team in the Premier League – but from the last game we must improve a lot of things.”
City’s first-leg performance met with a mixed analysis. On the one hand, City frustrated one of Europe’s great clubs and denied them an away goal, giving themselves a fighting chance heading to the Bernabeu.
But on the other it was argued City missed an opportunity to seize an advantage at home as they faced a side lacking their prolific goalscorer-talisman Ronaldo, who failed a fitness test on a thigh injury.
What was not in doubt was the brilliance of Hart. The England goalkeeper was quiet for most of the game as fit-again captain Vincent Kompany and Otamendi – preferred to Mangala, one of the stars of the PSG game – shone in central defence.
But that changed late on as Hart was called upon, and he showed great reflexes to deny Casemiro before somehow getting his body in the way of a ferocious Pepe effort.
“Joe’s had a very good season so far,” Pellegrini said. “He has been an important goalkeeper in my three years here. Maybe he had some problems in the first year but he reacted well and demonstrated what a good professional he is.
“He is the number one in England without discussion. I’m very happy for him.”
Pellegrini took the difficult decision to drop Hart after a series of erratic performances during his first season in charge, 2013-14, but it now seems it did the 29-year-old much good.
Pellegrini said: “That was very important for him in that moment. Some players have a bad reaction, but he recognised it and started working very hard. He has improved in these three years working with us a lot.”