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Sunday 11 December 2016

Manuel Pellegrini urges Manchester City to 'finish season the way we started'

Published 02/04/2016 | 22:36

Manuel Pellegrini has urged Manchester City to finish the season the way they started it
Manuel Pellegrini has urged Manchester City to finish the season the way they started it

Manuel Pellegrini has challenged Manchester City to push the Barclays Premier League title fight to the wire by finishing the season the way they started.

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City boss Pellegrini hailed "three beautiful goals" in the first 20 minutes that helped topple Bournemouth 4-0 at the Vitality Stadium, with fit-again Kevin De Bruyne the key performer.

Pellegrini accepts recent home defeats to Manchester United, Leicester and Tottenham have derailed the title charge, but insisted it was "not a bad season otherwise".

City started the league season with five consecutive victories, and now Pellegrini has demanded his side compile a similar run.

"If you have all your players 100 per cent fit, and playing all of them together, you win more games," the Chilean said, lamenting City's injury catalogue.

"That's the way we started the season, winning the first five games.

"I am very happy with the response of the squad because except for those three key home games, it's not a bad season otherwise.

"So with players like Kevin De Bruyne coming back hopefully we can return all our key players together, and I hope we can finish the season the same way we started."

Fernando, De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero all struck inside 20 minutes on the south coast to put City in cruise control on Saturday, before Aleksandar Kolarov fired a fourth at the death.

De Bruyne transformed City's attacking play in his first outing since late January after ankle ligament damage.

The 24-year-old Belgium star tied the work of Aguero and David Silva together, creating a triple threat that Bournemouth could not contain.

City take on Paris St Germain on Wednesday night in the Champions League quarter-final first leg, with Pellegrini calling for a run of wins to close out the campaign in style.

"We returned to our style of play today and recovered the normal level of performance for our important players," he said.

"De Bruyne is a very important player who today demonstrated just how good he is. He can be very important for us now.

"If you have a winning mentality you must always believe you can win the league if the maths allows. But it is not in our hands, so we just have to keep on winning games."

The three defeats Pellegrini cites as potentially damning in City's title bid followed the club's confirmation that Pep Guardiola will take over as manager in the summer.

De Bruyne's injury coincided with that announcement and subsequent dip in form, but Pellegrini would not be drawn on whether the Belgian's absence or the news on Guardiola has had a greater dent on City's season.

"Well it's the same for Kevin or Vincent Kompany or for Silva, or all the important players, we've had so many injured this season," Pellegrini said.

"One of the merits of this squad having so many injuries this season, is that this is the last English team in the Champions League, this is the team that won the Capital One Cup.

"We were forced to go out of the FA Cup because we had seven players injured at that moment and we prioritised the Premier League and the Champions League.

"And unfortunately for us we lost those three games at home.

"I am very happy with the response of the squad and now we need to finish the season strongly."

Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe continues to insist the Cherries are not yet safe from relegation, despite already boasting 38 points.

Howe vowed to keep pressing his men to push for mathematical safety - but also to learn from comprehensive and consecutive defeats to Tottenham and City.

"It doesn't matter what stage of the season, you want to win every game," Howe said.

"You owe it to everyone at the club. I still don't think we're safe and I've told my players that.

"We've got work to do. We've played Tottenham and Man City, and they've been too good for us."

Press Association

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