Twelve months ago, in Pellegrini’s debut Premier League season, City endured some difficult moments on a par with this latest home setback but ultimately captured the league title, an outcome that had as much to do with Liverpool’s late-season collapse as it did City’s dogged persistence.
This term, it is Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea who are playing the front running role and Nasri does not expect them to fold as spectacularly as Liverpool did. On the contrary, as City search for their first league win since New Year’s Day at Stoke on Wednesday, Nasri admits he is now looking over his shoulder at a chasing pack of Southampton, Manchester United and Spurs that could even pip the defending champions to second place.
“We have to wake up and do the job now before it’s too late. Chelsea, with no disrespect, are not Liverpool — who can drop points. They are really solid,” said Nasri. “We have to catch them as soon as possible if we want to be champions. But, at the same time, we have to look behind us. Southampton have won, United are getting close. We’ll see. But this is a little bit the story of our season, we are seven points behind Chelsea — and they are the points we lost against Stoke at home and today. It’s not good enough. We are trying to improve and get better.”
City need to be better — much better — than this desultory performance in which James Milner’s superb injury-time free-kick was required to cancel out David Meyler’s first half opening goal and salvage even a point.
By Wednesday, City could be 10 points behind Chelsea should results go against them and City’s cause will surely not be helped by Pellegrini’s decision to exclude Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony from the City squad for the Britannia. City have failed to win any of the six league games in which they have been without Toure, currently on duty with Bony and the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations. The duo are scheduled to fly back to England today but Pellegrini will not take them to Stoke — despite having sent his team out in last month’s FA Cup home defeat to Middlesbrough less than 12 hours after returning from a sunshine training break in Abu Dhabi.
“No, I don’t think it’s possible,” said Pellegrini. “They play on Sunday, they must return here on Monday, it’s not easy for them to just come, arrive and play so many games in just a few days. This is a team with great players and, at the moment we must try to find which ones of them can help resolve the problem.
“I repeat myself but if I have more players it’s better for me. We can’t think of players who aren’t here, we must think of the players who are here at the moment and see how we can improve their performance. With as many points as we have dropped, it will be more difficult, but this time we hope we are going to win against Stoke.
“This season I think we have played better away than we have done at home, because we have dropped too many points here at home. So I hope that at Stoke we can score and start winning again.”
MANCHESTER CITY: Hart 5;Zabaleta 5, Kompany 6, Demichelis 5, Clichy 6; Nasri 5, Fernando 4 (Navas 45, 6), Fernandinho 5, Silva 5 (Jovetic 74, 6); Dzeko 7 (Milner 66, 8), Aguero 6.
Subs not used: Caballero, Kolarov, Mangala, Lampard.
HULL: McGregor 8, Dawson 9, Bruce 8, McShane 8, Brady 8 (Quinn 90) — Elmohamady 7, Livermore 7, Huddlestone 8, Meyler 7 — Ramirez 7 (N’Doye 75, 6), Aluko 7 (Robertson 66, 6).
Subs not used: Harper, Davies, Hernandez, Jelavic.
Referee: J Moss 7.