Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini admits that even with his wealth of riches the club are feeling the strain of injuries as the club faces into a crucial week of their season.
City are currently without the key trio of top scorer Sergio Aguero, midfielder Fernandinho and playmaker Samir Nasri due to injury. They face Sunderland tonight before tackling title rivals Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday before the first leg of their glamorous Champions League last 16 tie against Barcelona next Tuesday.
Pellegrini said: “I don’t think the season will finish this week but I think it is a very important week for us.
“We have to play in the three competitions and maybe we are not in our best moment for the amount of players that are injured.
“We will see what happens this week, [if] the team returns to normal performance and I hope the future will look better when we have all the players back.”
City’s absentees were noticeable as the club were beaten last week by Chelsea and then as they played out a 0-0 draw at Norwich on Saturday.
All remain on the sidelines for the visit of Sunderland, who will also be City’s opponents in next month’s Capital One Cup final and have already beaten them at the Stadium of Light this season.
Pellegrini does not believe City’s title chances have been badly damaged because he has been predicting a close fight all season.
He said: “All teams will drop points. We lost to Chelsea and drew against Norwich but I think that all the teams in relegation positions or bad positions of the table will add points in the second half, so, for me, it is normal.
“In the Premier League, we have a very important three points [against Sunderland], but after that we have 36 points more (to play for).
“I am absolutely sure the Premier League will be decided in the last two games.
“The character of all the squad will be [tested] from now until the end of the season.”
City’s free-flowing attacking style has earned much praise this season and yielded 115 goals. The last two games have seen the output halted, but Pellegrini is hopeful the goals will soon start flowing again.
“I am not concerned. In these two games, (Alvaro) Negredo was not 100%, (Edin) Dzeko was not 100% and Aguero was not available. In the future, we will continue to score goals... but it is not easy.”
City defender Matija Nastasic (knee) has joined the club’s injury list but key midfielder Yaya Toure is available after escaping retrospective punishment following an off-the-ball incident involving Norwich’s Ricky van Wolfswinkel last weekend.
Sunderland have won three and drawn one of their last Premier League games away from the Stadium of Light and remarkably, have beaten City on Wearside in each of their last four meetings and for those reasons, boss Gus Poyet insists they cannot be written off.
The Uruguayan said: “We are going to play to win the game. Then if the opposition is better than you and they batter you and you get a point, you take it and run and go home.
“But the idea is to go and try to perform and see if we can play against them and be a difficult team to play.”
The sides will meet once again on March 2 with the season’s first domestic trophy at stake, but Poyet, who will be without suspended defender Wes Brown tonight following his dismissal at the weekend, does not believe either manager will be able to take too many pointers.
He said: “I don’t think so because those players we talked about before are going to be there for the final, for sure.
“But it’s true that mentally for the players, it would be good if can get a good result.
“For some reason, it’s away from home that we have been doing well, so now it’s a big opportunity against one of the top teams.”
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