Manuel Pellegrini has told his Manchester City stars to build on their impressive European escape act as they look to overhaul Premier League leaders Chelsea.
City’s 2-0 victory against AS Roma on Wednesday allowed them to secure an improbable place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League after they had failed to win any of their first four group games.
However, it is defending the Premier League title that is now top priority for Pellegrini.
The City manager is determined to keep the pressure on leaders Chelsea, who are only three points clear of the champions after losing their unbeaten record against Newcastle United.
“The most important thing now is to switch. We have finished with the Champions League and don’t have to worry about that until February,” Pellegrini said ahead of today’s trip to bottom-of-the-table Leicester City. “We have to play four more games in the Premier League in December, which are very important to try to continue to count points up on Chelsea.”
“We have 12 more points [on offer] in December and that’s what our minds must be focused on 100 percent,” he added.
Manchester City will have to try and get those points without leading scorer Sergio Aguero, who is out for four to six weeks with a knee ligament injury, while captain Vincent Kompany could also still be missing for the Leicester clash.
They managed to beat Roma without Aguero, who has scored 19 times this season, and Pellegrini has been at pains to point out that City are not a one-man team.
“The same as Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid and Lionel Messi at Barcelona, Sergio is a very important player, but we are not just one player,” Pellegrini said. “We are an important team with good players.”
Manchester City will look to maintain their winning run at Leicester before facing Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion and Burnley — who are all in the Premier League’s bottom six — over the Christmas period.
Manchester City defender Gael Clichy said the team are finally getting back to their best following an indifferent start to the season.
“In the last three or four weeks we have seen the real side that won the Premier League last year,” Clichy said. “When we play like this, we can only be confident and hopefully we can do great things this year.”
“I think we are improving. It was about time, because in the first part of the season we did not play well,” he said. “We have to forget what we did on Wednesday by keeping in mind we have the quality, and if the focus is there I think it’s hard for any team to win against us.”
Meanwhile, Leicester manager Nigel Pearson has been charged by the Football Association with using abusive and/or insulting words to one of his own supporters in an outburst during the recent 3-1 home defeat against Liverpool.
To make matters worse, Leicester’s former Manchester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel this week broke a metatarsal (foot bone) in training.
The Denmark international, 28, was due to face surgery yesterday, with Pearson admitting he would be out for at least a month depending on the outcome of the operation.
“Kasper will be having an operation tomorrow [Friday] on a metatarsal he broke this morning,” said Pearson, whose side have gone 10 games without a win. “It’s very unfortunate, and clearly the lad’s distressed about it. He will be a big miss for us. We have to deal with it. We can’t change it.”
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