Manuel Pellegrini has called for his Manchester City players to put aside a disappointing January and focus on closing the gap on Chelsea.
City host Hull City at the Etihad tomorrow afternoon and sit five points behind Jose Mourinho’s men after the sides drew 1-1 last week.
And with 15 games still left in the Premier League, Pellegrini knows his side are still in the title hunt.
“I thought that when you have to play for 45 points more, you can close a five-point gap,” he said.
“It’s important for our team to be at the top of the table as soon as we can.
“Other teams will drop points. The last two times this team has won the title, they have come from behind.”
Samir Nasri and Eliaquim Mangala are back from injury meaning only Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony are absent from the squad.
The Ivory Coast duo face Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations final this Sunday after a Toure goal and two Bony assists helped them to a 3-1 win over DR Congo in the semi-final.
And their club manager had a message of support for his two African stars.
“The most important thing for them is to win that cup,” Pellegrini said.
“It’s always positive to win things – especially when you arrive to the final. It’s not easy to shake it off.
“Ivory Coast deserve to win as they are playing very well and I hope they will do it.”
With a Champions League clash with Barcelona coming later this month, the Chilean knows City must improve their fortunes on the pitch.
Despite an impressive performance at Chelsea, City lost at home to Arsenal and crashed out of the FA Cup after losing 2-0 to Middlesbrough.
“It was not a good January – we made a very good December but January was not a good month,” added Pellegrini.
“We changed again our team as we were without strikers, then they came back and they need minutes to be fit.
“I suppose that the game against Chelsea will be the switch for our performances.
“I am sure that if we repeat the performance against Chelsea and rediscover our scoring touch at home, we will have a very good last few months of the season.”
Centre-back Mangala knows the threat that Hull can pose, having conceded a penalty and scoring an own goal against the Tigers in September.
“Hull are in a bad moment but we have seen that it doesn’t make any difference where a team is in the table or, for that matter, which division they are in.
“How a team is performing on paper is hypothetical. The reality on the pitch is something else.”
Steve Bruce’s Hull side could be without as many as six players on Saturday, with Nikica Jelavic still a doubt following knee surgery while January signing Dame N’Doye will also not be available for the away trip to Manchester.
Bruce said: “We need clearance from the Russian FA for Dame and we know the English FA has been in touch with them.
“I would think there will be a great chance of him being available for Tuesday against Aston Villa, but it’s difficult to see him playing this Saturday. He’s still in Paris.”
The Hull manager was optimistic about his team’s chances on Saturday, but also stated that they would need to improve on their recent performances, particularly following their 3-0 loss at home to Newcastle United.
“We’ve got to eradicate the simple mistakes that we’re making because the last three games have seen some awful individual errors that have put us under the hammer.
“If we make them at Manchester City, we have no chance.
“But if we can roll our sleeves up, show what we’re about and rediscover a bit of form, what better place to do it.”
Main image courtesy of Manchester City FC 1 via YouTube, with thanks.