Monday 11 December 2017

Pellegrini focuses on Villa with Bayern clash looming

Andy Hampson

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini claims next week's clash with European champions Bayern Munich is not yet occupying his thoughts.

Pellegrini wants to focus on the weekend Barclays Premier League trip to Aston Villa before switching his attention to Wednesday's glamour Champions League tie at the Etihad Stadium.

City attracted some criticism after labouring to a goalless draw at Stoke a fortnight ago, three days before their last Champions League outing.

Potters boss Mark Hughes suggested Pellegrini had prioritised the wrong game after making six changes at the Britannia Stadium.

But even though Pellegrini has confirmed Sergio Aguero will not be risked at Villa Park after a knock, the Chilean insists his quest for top spot is priority this weekend.

Pellegrini, whose side have not yet won away after defeat at Cardiff last month, said: "I am sure nobody is thinking about Bayern Munich. We are all thinking about Aston Villa.

"We know it is a strong team playing at home. We need to play a very good game if we want to win and we need to win away now.

"We have lost one away and drawn the other, for different reasons.

"It is in the past so I don't continue talking about those games but tomorrow we have the opportunity to win against Aston Villa.

"It is very important for us to reach the first position of the table."

City, currently third, could go top if Arsenal and Tottenham drop points this weekend.

News of Aguero's unavailability was a surprise.

The Argentina striker was outstanding as he scored two goals in last week's derby destruction of Manchester United.

He was substituted after 86 minutes but it was not thought to be injury related and it was no surprise that he was rested for the midweek Capital One Cup win over Wigan.

Pellegrini has now revealed there was a problem but it will not keep him out of the Munich match.

Pellegrini said: "Aguero finished the last derby in the last play with a small pain.

"I think it was nothing important but I think it was a risk for him to play three games in the same week.

"We will leave him for next Wednesday but he will be absolutely fine."

Playmaker David Silva remains on the sidelines after four games out with a thigh strain but could be back in contention to face Pep Guardiola's German giants.

"We will see in the week," said Pellegrini, when asked of the Spaniard's fitness.

City have enjoyed an outstanding spell since that Stoke result, opening their Champions League campaign with a comfortable win over Viktoria Plzen and then thrashing United and Wigan.

In the process they scored 12 goals and the fluid attacking style Pellegrini promised when appointed, even after 10 changes against Wigan, was much in evidence.

Pellegrini feels the team are getting close to playing in the manner he wants.

He said: "If we repeat what we did against Manchester United, very near.

"But all the games are different, performances are different, the squads are different.

"The important thing is we see the same team but with different names."

Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, James Milner and Stevan Jovetic were among those to impress after coming into the side for the 5-0 win over Wigan on Tuesday.

They may now have to make way again but Pellegrini expects all of his players to be able to slot in seamlessly when called upon and does not anticipate problems keeping everyone happy.

He said: "For me that is the least problem. The problem for managers is when you don't have players to make rotation or to play every week. That is not a problem for me.

"All the players understand it is mature players that we need, an important amount of players.

"I always said two in each position because we have a lot of games to play from now until the end of the year."

City's performances in their last three games, most notably against United, have earned considerable plaudits but Pellegrini is unwilling say whether he has the Premier League's best squad or not.

He said: "We are just starting the year so it is difficult in this moment to say who is the strongest squad.

"I think we have a very good squad and we will try to win all we play."

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