Ahead of Saturday’s match against West Ham, Manuel Pellegrini faced the press on Friday lunchtime and spoke of his frustration at the 2-2 draw in Moscow earlier this week.
After being two up at half-time, City threw away their lead and face an uncertain future in the competition. But three wins in our last three league games has seen us build up some momentum domestically.
Of course it was a frustration because in the first half we had enough chances to decide the game. We didn’t and we paid maybe for lack of concentration or excess of trust and we lost two important points but in the Champions League the most important thing is to qualify for the next stage so you can make the mistake.
Where we cannot lose points is in the Premier League. Now we have finished with Champions League and all of us are thinking about West Ham. I think we have nine points more to play and the game that will decide if we qualify for the next stage will be the game we have to play in Rome.
West Ham’s good form has seen them move into fourth. Diafro Sakdo and Enner Valencia have looked outstanding, as has Stewart Downing who has finally found himself in form. A well-executed transfer window has revitalised them. Our wins over them in the League Cup, where they were a shambles and Sam Allardyce appeared to be struggling to hold onto his job, seem a long time ago.
Pellegrini, though, is keenly aware of the threat this new-look Hammers side poses:
I don’t know if is tricky. I think that every game in Premier League is difficult. West Ham is in a good moment, playing good attractive football so we are sure we are going to have a very tough game as always.
They play in a different way. They have different players and they are playing in a different way. They have bought two important strikers and they are doing very well.
Samir Nasri still isn’t ready to play after his groin operation, although he has been training with the squad this week. He’s been a big loss in recent weeks and Pellegrini will be keen to make sure he’s fully match fit when he returns to the side. Frank Lampard is also struggling, he picked up a thigh injury in the win over Spurs and will return to training next week.
No, Frank is not ready for this week but maybe I think next week he will start working with the whole squad. It will be a short injury, less than we thought at the beginning. All the other players of the squad are fit.
He [Nasri] works with the whole team. After we returned from Russia, he started working with the whole squad. Maybe next week he will be okay.
Predictably, the form of Sergio Aguero was brought up. He has been in sparkling form and scored all four against Tottenham last weekend, becoming City’s all-time leading Premier League goalscorer with 61 goals in 95 games. He has the best goal-to-minute ratio in the history of the competition having scored a goal every 108 minutes, way ahead of the great Thierry Henry in second who managed a goal every 122 minutes. It’s a pleasure watching someone with Aguero’s quality play for City.
But Pellegrini feels there’s more to come, saying:
I don’t think it is the best I have seen from Sergio. I have known him for a lot of years, before we were here in England, and especially here in Manchester City the season 2011-12 when Manchester City won the title I think he was a very important player and last year he was also very important especially in the first part of the year when he was not injured. After that, it was difficult for him but I was always sure he would return to his normal performance.
Yes I think he can get even better.
City, who are five points behind leaders Chelsea, can’t afford a slip up on Saturday lunchtime.
West Ham (from): Adrian, Jaaskelainen, Spiegel, Collins, Cresswell, Demel, Jenkinson, O’Brien, Potts, Reid, Tomkins, Amalfitano, Downing, Jarvis, Kouyate, Lletget, Noble, Nolan, Poyet, Song, Cole, Sakho, Valencia, Vaz Te, Zarate.
Man City (from): Caballero, Hart, Wright, Boyata, Clichy, Demichelis, Kolarov, Kompany, Mangala, Nastasic, Sagna, Zabaleta, Fernandinho, Fernando, Lampard, Milner, Navas, Silva, Sinclair, Toure, Aguero, Dzeko, Jovetic.
Referee: Martin Atkinson Assistants: S Child, P Kirkup Fourth Official: C Pawson
Written by Rob Pollard