Monday 18 December 2017

Pellegrini warns City to focus on securing the title

Manuel Pellegrini, manager of Manchester City
Manuel Pellegrini, manager of Manchester City

Mark Ogden

Manuel Pellegrini has urged his Manchester City players to focus solely on winning two more games to deliver the Premier League title after revealing that he did not even watch Liverpool's capitulation against Crystal Palace which has put his team on the brink of glory.

With Liverpool dropping two points at Selhurst Park on Monday after conceding three goals in the closing stages to draw 3-3, City can win a second championship in three seasons by taking four points from their two remaining home fixtures against Aston Villa and West Ham United.

Having lost 3-2 at Anfield last month, City appeared to have blown their title hopes by drawing 2-2 at home against Sunderland three days later.

But Liverpool's slip against Palace, on the back of a 2-0 home defeat against Chelsea, has shifted the pendulum back in City's favour.

However, Pellegrini insisted that the safest way to win the title was to simply concentrate on delivering against Villa and West Ham, even if it meant ignoring the twists and turns endured by their closest challengers.

"I did not watch Liverpool's game against Crystal Palace," Pellegrini said.

"Why? Because I was watching a tape of Aston Villa. We have to play against them, so I was working. The Aston Villa game does not depend on the result of Liverpool.

"I was watching a tape and working. I knew the result (at Palace) once the game was finished, because other people told me at the end.

IMPORTANT

"Against Villa, we will prepare exactly the same as we prepare for all the games during the year, because we know the next game is the most important game.

"We are not going to win the Premier League if we beat Aston Villa. We must win this game and then we will see what happens on Sunday. All of the teams are under pressure, but I hope that if we play at home as we did so far, I hope that we can win the game."

City endured a surprise 3-2 defeat at Villa Park in September, when Paul Lambert's team fought back from 2-1 down to win.

With Liverpool being stung late on by Palace on Monday, Pellegrini believes that both results offer a warning to his players ahead of the game tonight.

"Liverpool were winning 3-0, but the score changed," Pellegrini said. "It's not just a lesson for this moment, because football is always the same.

"But it is a good lesson for everyone. No one knows what will happen in football, it depends on a lot of things, not just what you can do.

"In the Premier League, it is very difficult to win games. You cannot be sure you are winning until the last minute. Crystal Palace is a good team in a good moment.

"That is why, when we lost against Liverpool, I said this was not the finish of the Premier League. All the teams will drop points and that happens. I expect the same problem against Aston Villa...

"Maybe Crystal Palace had nothing to fight for, but they were a very strong team and I am sure Aston Villa will be a very strong team for us."

City must overcome Villa without leading scorer Sergio Aguero, who has been ruled out with a groin injury, which could also force him to miss the final-day match with West Ham.

Despite the loss of Aguero, Pellegrini insists that City's objective is simple and clear-cut – win two more games and not merely target the four points which will secure the title.

"We are not thinking about any draws. We are thinking about winning these two games," he said.

"We have experienced players and they have been in a similar situation two years ago. We have the pressure to win, but we've had it the whole year.

"We don't know what can happen in any game.

"Against Sunderland, it was strange because they drew against us here at home. But when you look at what Sunderland did after that – winning at Chelsea and Manchester United – maybe it wasn't such a bad result.

"Maybe with that point, we are able to win the title.

"But from the beginning of the season I always said that this team wants to win the title.

"Now we will try to do it." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

MAN CITY V ASTON VILLA,

LIVE, SKY SPORTS 1, 7.45

Irish Independent

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