Defiant Pellegrini says City have it all to do
Manuel Pellegrini has insisted Manchester City still have plenty of work to do to wrap up a second English title in three years, despite their hopes being in their own hands.
City moved top of the Premier League table for the first time since early February with a 3-2 win at Everton on Saturday.
With Chelsea facing Norwich on Sunday and fellow title rivals Liverpool heading to Crystal Palace on Monday, it means that, barring a huge victory for the Reds at Selhurst Park, City will be top on Wednesday if they beat Aston Villa.
After that only another home game against West Ham at Eastlands on next weekend’s final day of the league season is set to stand between City and the trophy.
Their chances looked over when they lost at Liverpool and drew at home with Sunderland but three consecutive wins and Chelsea’s recent victory at Anfield gave City the initiative once again.
Saturday’s trip to Goodison Park was seen as the key match in City’s hopes but Pellegrini told his players immediately after the final whistle not to let it slip now.
“It was a testing moment but we haven’t finished yet,” said the City manager.
“We’ve just won one of the three games that we must win to win the title,” Pellegrini added.
“It was a very difficult game because you see the history here for City, two wins in 10 years, Everton are in a good moment and they played well so it’s a very important victory.
“I was talking with the players especially after we lost against Liverpool and I said that the title was not over and we must continue playing.
“I never try to think in a negative way,” the Chilean explained. “We have to win two games more, a lot can happen and we will prepare for Aston Villa and at the end of the season we’ll analyse how the season was.
“Three points is a good step towards trying to win the title.”
After Ross Barkley gave Everton the lead with a powerful, looping shot, Sergio Aguero pulled City level before Edin Dzeko headed them in front before half-time.
Dzeko scored his second goal when he tapped in from Samir Nasri’s cross but Romelu Lukaku finished from a Leighton Baines centre to give City an anxious final few minutes on Merseyside.
Argentina striker Aguero, who has had three spells out through injury this season, was forced off with what appeared to be a groin problem.
He will be assessed again on Sunday and Pellegrini confirmed that Yaya Toure, also withdrawn at Goodison, was only taken off as a precaution.
“We will know tomorrow (Sunday) after the doctor examines him (Aguero),” Pellegrini said.
“I don’t know if it’s his groin or hamstring, it’s a muscle problem.”
Although City is closing on the title, Barkley was the outstanding player on the pitch.
England coach Roy Hodgson was in the crowd watching and Everton manager Roberto Martinez was sure the midfielder could excel at the forthcoming World Cup in Brazil.
“If he’s called up it’s the right thing,” Martinez said. “He offers something unique and at the same time he’s a young man, we have to look after him and support him and give him time to fulfil his potential.
“The character of Ross is ready to embrace anything that comes his way but if he’s not in the World Cup we’ll use the time to refresh him, regenerate him and get him ready for the next campaign.”
Everton’s hopes of Champions League football were ended with their defeat but they are now guaranteed fifth spot and a Europa League place.
Martinez added: “It is disappointing (failing to qualify for the Champions League) because that was a dream that we had at the beginning of the season and we gave everything we had to achieve it
“If we get fifth there’s no room to feel disappointed about not getting into the Champions League,” the Spaniard added. “To get into Europe is a phenomenal step.”