CSKA Moscow's manager, Leonid Slutsky, has branded the fallout from Yaya Touré being racially abused by a section of fans an "overreaction" and said the situation had been exaggerated, though he was clear the club is against all racism.
Touré suffered monkey chants during Manchester City's 2-1 win at CSKA in a Champions League group game a fortnight ago. Although the Russian club initially denied that Touré had been the subject of the abuse, Uefa has ruled that a section of their ground should be closed for their next home match in the competition, against Bayern Munich.
During a press conference in which CSKA tried to keep questions away from the issue, Slutsky was finally moved to make a statement regarding the incident. "It is normal we are against racism in our team," he said. "We have black players and we give them support. We did not hear any racist chants [so] it is difficult to comment.
"The club is categorically against racism but we think the situation has been very exaggerated and there was an overreaction. We have received our punishment – it was up to Uefa to impose it."
Although there was no confirmation that CSKA will not appeal against the verdict, Slutsky indicated the club will abide by the ruling. "That is a question for the bosses in our club – I do not deal with appeals," he said. "The sooner we finish [speaking about it the better]."
Although Slutsky offered no apology the CSKA captain, Sergei Ignashevich, did so. But after first stating only that he was sorry some fans would not be able to attend the Bayern game.
"We are very sorry some of the fans won't be at this game but at the moment we are thinking about the [City] game," he said.
When pressed if he was apologetic over the abuse Touré suffered, Ignashevich said: "We are sorry that such unpleasant incident took place."
When Slutsky was asked how bad it would be if there were a repeat during Tuesday's match at the Etihad Stadium, the club's media officer intervened, saying: "Let's wait for them to repeat it and then feel sorry for that."
Manuel Pellegrini earlier warned the CSKA fans that there should be no repeat and that they should remember the 2018 World Cup is being held in their country. In light of CSKA's denial that Touré had been subjected to the chants, the City manager was asked how relations were between the two clubs.
"I don't know about the relations of both clubs," he said. "The fans of CSKA made an important mistake. The club, I don't know why they denied at the beginning or what their reaction is now but Uefa acted and gave them the punishment they deserve. I hope we can leave it in the past and [the same] for Russian fans because they have a World Cup in their country."
Pellegerini will not say anything special to Touré before the game. "I think Yaya is an experienced player," he said. "What happened in Russia, maybe he can't forget but tomorrow is a special match for him, not because of that but because Manchester City can go to the next stage of the Champions League. I think he will only be thinking about football."
The City defender Pablo Zabaleta said: "What happened in Moscow was really hard for Yaya. We are all behind him and any time we see something like that we try to help the players.
"Hopefully Uefa is always on it. As players we can do nothing; we just need to give a massive support to the black players when they have some problems like that. Let me talk about football, that is the most important thing."
Is the right-back concerned there may be a repeat on Tuesday evening? "I don't know. As I said before, I don't want to talk too much about racist chants or problems because I think we need to be more focused on football. That is the most important thing. And let Uefa take decisions about it."
Pellegrini confirmed that Joe Hart will again be left out for Costel Pantilimon but the manager does not believe his decision has affected the England goalkeeper's confidence. "No, I think Joe reacted very well. He is a professional player," he said.
"For him, it is also a good thing to have a rest after playing so many matches. He is working without any problem, supporting Costel Pantilimon.
"Nobody wants to be out but he thinks it will be useful for him."