Is this still Manuel Pellegrini's big Manchester City challenge?

Just how important is the Champions League to the Manchester City board?

Rarely has a Premier League manager made an impression in their first season quite like Manuel Pellegrini.

A Capital One Cup trophy was promptly followed up by the Premier League title, as the Chilean ended his debut campaign at the Etihad Stadium in style and made sure his name would go down in the history books on these shores.

For a club that has spent so much money and targeted success on such a global scale, however, Pellegrini’s double will mean little unless it is a pre-cursor to further success.

Harsh? Perhaps. But realistic, as Fernando Soriano and Txiki Begiristain might tell you if you had the chance to speak to them in private.

Pellegrini, 60, has certainly shown promise in his debut campaign when it comes to the long term. His man management appears spot on, his expansive style of football suitable and his ability to win a league title in his first season at the Etihad unprecedented.

It is the Champions League, though, that everyone at Manchester City now wants.

It was, after all, at least part of the reason Pellegrini was brought into the club, with the Chilean’s European exploits at Villarreal and Malaga not having gone unnoticed. Last term, though, City came across Barcelona at the last-16 stage – and that was their European dream over for another season.

This term, just how much will be expected of Pellegrini’s squad? And how much will that expectation weigh on the 60-year-old’s job security?

Recently, the Man City boss was keen to point out that winning the league title has not reduced the pressure on him. Make no mistake, he is not just being modest.

At the Etihad, domestic success alone will not be enough in the years to come. Much like Chelsea’s quest for Champions League glory, it may end up consuming the club’s ambitions until progress is made.

It certainly isn’t an obsession just yet – but, after securing the Premier League title, it will become a higher priority.

For Pellegrini, a title defence will be a big target, though perhaps no longer the main one. Champions League success, be it just reaching the quarter-finals this time or going further, could soon become the yardstick with which his performance is measured.

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