Manuel Pellegrini has challenged Manchester City to use their dramatic League Cup final victory over Liverpool as a catalyst for a renewed assault on the Premier League title as they prepare to face the Reds again on Wednesday.
Pellegrini will hand the managerial reins over to Pep Guardiola at the end of the season and the Chilean ensured he will depart the Etihad Stadium with at least one trophy in 2015-16 following a 3-1 penalty shoot-out win at Wembley – deputy goalkeeper Willy Caballero proving the hero by saving three spot-kicks.
A fixture list coincidence means Liverpool have the opportunity to exact immediate revenge at Anfield, but City are aiming to avoid three consecutive league defeats for the first time since 2008 after suffering damaging home losses to title rivals Leicester City and Tottenham.
Those setbacks have left City – hammered 4-1 by Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in November – nine points adrift of leaders Leicester, albeit with a game in hand.
However, Pellegrini insists City are still well in the race.
“I am happy to have won a title in February. It is important for the trust of the team in the way we are working,” he told City’s official website.
“We are not going to give up on the Premier League – we have to play for another 36 points – and we have made a huge step in the Champions League. To win the title, we have to have a lot of trust.”
Liverpool’s defeat denied Jurgen Klopp his first major silverware since replacing Brendan Rodgers in October, and Liverpool’s only chance of lifting a trophy this term is in the Europa League.
The Reds fought back well at Wembley as Philippe Coutinho, who will make a 100th Premier League appearance if selected on Wednesday, equalised after Simon Mignolet was beaten easily by Fernandinho for City’s opener.
Klopp acknowledged the difficulty of rebounding from cup heartbreak, but the German has promised a strong response from his side.
“You cannot say ‘I don’t care, it’s not important’. It was important and we lost, so that feels not too good,” he said.
“You always have to strike back. We can say all of these things, but you know you can fall down and then you have to stand up.
“That’s the truth, but it’s completely normal – only silly idiots stay on the floor and wait for the next defeat. Of course we will strike back – 100 per cent.”
Liverpool will give a late check to Mamadou Sakho who sustained a head injury at Wembley, while Martin Skrtel and Joe Allen (both hamstring) remain out and Dejan Lovren (illness) is still a doubt.
City have no fresh injury worries, with Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Fabian Delph (Achilles) and Samir Nasri (hamstring) still sidelined.
Key Opta stats:
– Following a run of just one win in 10 Premier League games against Manchester City (W1 D6 L3), Liverpool have won three of the last four league meetings between the two sides (L1).
– Manchester City have won none of their last 12 Premier League trips to Anfield (W0 D4 L8).
– Philippe Coutinho has scored in five of his six appearances against Manchester City, including in the League Cup final at the weekend.
– Sergio Aguero has scored in all four of his Premier League appearances against Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium but in none of his three appearances at Anfield.