City boss Manuel Pellegrini plays down significance of Leicester clash
Published 05/02/2016 | 17:46
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has played down the significance of this weekend's top-of-the-table clash with Leicester.
The Foxes have defied sceptics throughout the season and travel to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday as the surprise leaders of the Barclays Premier League.
Leicester hold a three-point lead at the top and have shown no signs of slowing down with the outstanding Jamie Vardy firing them to a superb 2-0 win over Liverpool in midweek.
Claudio Ranieri's outsiders are now starting to be regarded as genuine title contenders and their meeting with City is being eagerly anticipated, but Pellegrini points out it is not a decisive match.
Pellegrini said: "We can win this game or lose this game and it will not finish the Premier League here. After this you still have to play 13 more games, 39 points. There are still a lot of points.
"You cannot think because you win you are the champions. If you lose you still have a lot of things to fight for between now and the end of the season."
The seeds for Leicester's dramatic rise were sown in their late charge away from relegation last season.
Pellegrini has been impressed and believes they are capable of lasting the course.
The Chilean said: "I think Leicester started playing very well last season. They won seven of their last nine games. They started playing with high confidence, knowing what they can do.
"This season, maybe at the beginning it was a surprise but now it is not a surprise. They are playing with a very high performance, they have a team that works well together and they have an experienced manager. I think they will be involved in the title race until the end.
"I hope we can win to close the gap and continue fighting with Leicester and other teams to see who will win the title this year."
Even if City prevail in the title race - and claim silverware in any of the other three competitions they are still competing in - Pellegrini will not be staying at the club to enjoy the success.
It was confirmed this week that Pellegrini would be replaced by Pep Guardiola in the summer.
News of the changes was initially broken by Pellegrini himself, who announced in a press conference on Monday that he would be leaving at the end of the season.
Yet it appears that is as much as he wishes to discuss about the matter for now, as he batted away all questions about his future at his latest media briefing.
He said: "That was important but that's the last thing I will talk about that now because we are in this season. We have a lot of things to fight for, so it's very important to be focused now in what we must do in this season and not thinking about the next one.
"I think that the players must be always thinking about the next game because it's the only way to be successful. We are thinking only about Leicester."
The 62-year-old was not completely without humour, however. As he made his announcement at the end of his last press conference, he was asked at the beginning of this one if he had anything else to say.
He jokingly said: "I cannot do all the press conference for you, you must try to help me a little bit more. I was so bored last time that I tried to make you a little bit more amused!"