The Manchester City manager faces Bayern Munich having never coached a side to victory over a Pep Guardiola team
Manuel Pellegrini has the chance to right the personal failure of having never beaten a Pep Guardiola team when Bayern Munich arrive at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday tonight.
In the four years Guardiola led Barcelona, from 2008 to 2012, the best Pellegrini managed in tenures at Real Madrid, Málaga and Villarreal was a 3-3 draw in La Liga with the latter club in May 2009.
Despite the swagger of a Bayern side who flew in from Germany as the competition's holders, and Guardiola's pedigree in guiding Barcelona to two Champions League titles, Pellegrini insists that City will be sent out to go only for victory before their home crowd.
"We never think about a draw," said Pellegrini of facing a club whose Champions League lineage also includes a win in 2001 and defeats in the 2010 and 2012 finals. "If we cannot win it's better to draw than lose but we're not going to go into the pitch thinking a draw against Bayern. From the first minute we will go for three points."
On why he is confident he can improve a personal head-to-head count that stands at 7-0 in wins to Guardiola, Pellegrini said: "Football is always different. I always have the same answer about the past: that's past and now we will see about the future. It's not Guardiola against me. It's always about the players. I don't play against Guardiola."
When reminded of his record against Pellegrini, Guardiola said: "That's not important. I am really impressed with Manuel, I would like to be like him. No matter which team he is training, his teams always train in the same way. His footsteps [and] trademark are always there: Villareal, Málaga and Real Madrid. If I beat them [in the past] it was because I was training one of the best teams in the world. For me it is a pleasure to play against Manuel. He loves to play football, keep the ball. It will be a good test for both teams."
Regarding the abilities of Guardiola, whose Bayern side trail Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga on goal difference, Pellegrini said: "Pep is a great manager and he's at a great club." Yet then the 60-year-old craftily suggested that the Spaniard's challenge is to somehow better the treble of domestic title, German Cup and European Cup delivered last season by Jupp Heynckes.
"I know it's not easy for him to improve on what Bayern did last year," he said, "but in some way he will give Bayern the characteristics of the teams he managed, that he gave to Barcelona in his four years."
Guardiola brings a side who last season became Europe's dominant force, with Heynckes having masterminded a 7-0 aggregate trouncing of Barcelona in the semi-final. In Manuel Neuer, Philip Lahm, Franck Ribéry, Arjen Robben, Thomas Müller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Mandzukic and Mario Götze, Guardiola has an enviable roster of A-listers to choose from, with Javi Martínez's groin injury making him the sole absentee.
Having acquired Guardiola as coach, plus the on-field talent of Thiago Alcantara, who is injured, and Götze, while losing none of the XI who started the 2-1 Wembley final triumph over Dortmund, an argument runs that Bayern are now more of a challenge.
Edin Dzeko, who started in City's 3-0 win over Viktoria Plzen in the opening game, is unsure. "I don't know if Bayern are stronger but I have to say they were the strongest last year," he said. "They are defending the Champions League, and we always want to play the big games, and now we have a chance to show ourselves against the best teams. We play a big rival in the group at home and we want to win."
Following Saturday's feeble 3-2 reverse at Aston Villa Pellegrini expects his side to return to the form that enabled them to demolish Manchester United 4-1. "I always expect a big response," he said. "We started well in the Champions League and it's important for us to continue. Beginning at home, with the most difficult team of the group. For me it was very important to win the first three points against Viktoria Plzen. Bayern is a very strong team but we're also in a good moment and hopefully we can get the three points here."
City have not lost at home in Europe for five years, a statistic that belies a dire Champions League record which shows failure to qualify from this phase in two attempts.
Despite what Pellegrini says about victory, a draw would bring an invaluable point and City could finally be headed towards post-Christmas participation in the competition.