Manuel Pellegrini has challenged Manchester City to end the season with eight successive victories as the champions look to revive their fading bid to retain the Premier League title at Crystal Palace on Monday.
City travel to Selhurst Park nine points behind leaders Chelsea after Pellegrini’s side drop to fourth place following resounding wins for Arsenal and Manchester United over the weekend.
Fortunately for Pellegrini, who has come in for mounting criticism in recent weeks, fifth placed Liverpool were beaten at Arsenal to give City a seven-point cushion in the battle to qualify for the Champions League via a top four finish.
While Pellegrini is not looking over his shoulder at the chasing pack, the Chilean concedes City need a lengthy winning run, ideally to close the gap on Chelsea but also to seal a top four spot.
“I think in this league you can never be sure you are going to have a Champions League place,” he said.
“You have six or seven teams that from the beginning all of them play for that position.
“At the moment, for the whole year, we are in the position of the Champions League. I hope that now we will continue.
“I hope we can do it. We have to play eight finals from now until the end. I hope in these eight games we continue playing that way.
“Of course I always expect to win all the games from the beginning of the season to the end. That is the mentality we must have as a big team.
“So many times you ask me after a defeat if we are obligated to win. We are always obligated to win. This team demand you to win every game.
“Now it is important to take it game by game and we must focus on our mind on Crystal Palace.”
– Troubled season –
After a run of just two victories in their last six games, a sequence that also included two defeats and European exit against Barcelona, Pellegrini acknowledges there is no further margin for error in a disappointing campaign.
At least City have a completely clean bill of health following the international break, although the troubled season endured by club skipper Vincent Kompany continued in Israel where he was red carded during Belgium’s 1-0 victory.
However, Pellegrini insisted that Kompany offers him little about which to be concerned ahead of the resumption of league action.
“I don’t worry about Vincent because I know him,” said Pellegrini. “He knows perfectly in the way he must play.
“I don’t know about the sending off because I didn’t see it but I think he improved a lot with our team in the last game so I don’t worry about him. There are not any problems.”
Palace’s revival since Alan Pardew took charge in January means they are now targeting a top half finish rather than looking over their shoulders towards the relegation zone.
The dynamic displays of wingers Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie have been instrumental in transforming the fortunes of Pardew’s side.
Zaha is back at his former club after a brief, unsuccessful stay at Manchester United and the player admits he is relieved to have moved on from Old Trafford.
Speaking to The Telegraph, he said: “When I was there United were going through a transition. Sir Alex Ferguson was leaving, which I didn’t know before I signed, so I didn’t really get the chance that I wanted there because obviously the new manager came in with a lot of pressure as well.
“I have trust in Alan Pardew and he has trust in me. When he says he will do something he will do it.
“This gaffer understands that I am not going to get everything right, that it’s my job to create and try and take on people.”
Photo Credits : AFP