Manuel Pellegrini has urged his players to replicate their achievement of two years ago when Manchester City clinched the Premier League title from a seemingly hopeless position.
City’s 3-0 defeat at Liverpool on Wednesday – just three days after they beat the same opposition at Wembley in the League Cup final – was their third in succession in the league and has left them 10 points behind table-topping Leicester, although they do have a game in hand.
Pellegrini’s men found themselves in a similar situation in 2014 with Liverpool, under Brendan Rodgers, in a strong position before City came back to claim the trophy.
Speaking at a news conference ahead of Saturday’s home game with rock-bottom Aston Villa, Pellegrini said: “Remember the first season I was here? We needed to win the three games in hand and we won the three games. Everyone said we were out of it but we won the games and won the title.
“This group of players will never give up while we have the option to do it.
“We have one game in hand but it’s more important not to think about that but just to improve our Premier League performances.
“We are not going to give up [even though] it’s a lot of points to the leaders. You never know when you are going to lose points. We must continue as far as we can and add the most amount of points we can, then we can see where we end up.
“We try to win every time we play – we just had a bad moment but we have another 33 points to play for.”
Pellegrini blamed Wednesday’s poor display at Anfield on their exertions three days previously.
“We were very frustrated about the result and the game we played but it’s the past,” he added.
“It seemed that we didn’t recover from the 120 minutes from Sunday. We didn’t play well. We conceded two goals in four minutes and the game was over.”
On paper, a home game with Villa appears a straightforward assignment but the former Real Madrid boss was urging caution from his players.
He said: “We play at home against the team in the worst position in the Premier League but the worst mistake we can make is thinking that we’ve already won the game.
“We must concentrate, try not to make mistakes. We know all teams in the relegation places will create a difficult game – I hope we can play our best performance and get the three points.”
City will welcome back midfielder Yaya Toure at the weekend after the Ivorian missed the midweek defeat with a foot injury.
“Yaya had an important kick on his heel – that’s why he couldn’t play on Wednesday but he’s okay now, no problem,” said Pellegrini, who will still be without Fabian Delph, Samir Nasri and Kevin De Bruyne.
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