Manuel Pellegrini says Manchester City well placed to pounce

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is happy with his side’s positioning halfway through the title race. City are third in the Premier League after 19 games, three points behind leaders Arsenal.

City have already been beaten five times and, with 36 points, are well down on their tallies at the equivalent stages of their title-winning campaigns of 2011-12 (45) and 2013-14 (41).

But Pellegrini does not think that matters as none of the leading contenders have been able to find consistency.

The Chilean said: “Of course we are in a good position. Always the best position is to be top of the table but I think this is a special season in the Premier League.

“With the amount of points we have at this moment, it is not good to fight for the title in a normal season, but we are now just three points behind the leaders. I hope we are going to complete with a good second part of the season.”

To get their challenge firing City need to address their away form. Pellegrini’s men have won just three of their nine games on the road and the last of them was on September 12. Yaya Toure’s late consolation in the 2-1 loss at Arsenal on December 21 was also their only goal in their last five away games. But Pellegrini saw positives in Tuesday’s goalless draw at Leicester and the team will look to build on that as they travel to Watford today.

He said: “If we didn’t win the last games we played away, it is because we must improve. But it was good to have a clean sheet and for me the best thing from that game was playing the same way we did in the last two games.

“We didn’t win against Arsenal but I don’t think we played a bad game and we played very well against Sunderland. I think we also played very well against Leicester. Maybe we have to finish a little bit more but I think we are in the correct way.”

Promoted Watford have been one of the season’s surprise packages and go into the game against City at Vicarage Road just two points off fifth.

Pellegrini said: “Maybe at the beginning of the season it can be a surprise, the same as Leicester, but when you play 19 games, half of the season, and you are still talking about Watford or Leicester, they continue playing in a good way, it is because they have important players in a good moment of high performance and managers that are doing very well their job.” City’s clean sheet against Leicester was their first this season without injured captain Vincent Kompany, who could be out for another month with calf trouble. Left-back Gael Clichy and midfielders Fernando and Fabian Delph are back in contention.

Meanwhile Watford midfielder Valon Behrami believes they can continue to mix it with the best the division has to offer.

Quique Sanchez Flores’ side sit ninth in the table, just two points behind fifth-placed Crystal Palace. It would have been better had they not slipped to defeat by a late goal to Tottenham on Monday.

Behrami has had to settle for a place on the bench in recent weeks and the Switzerland international knows he has a fight to get back into a side who are catching the eye.

Behrami reckons Watford have now proven they can go toe to toe with the likes of Manuel Pellegrini’s side.

“We know that at home we have the quality to get a good result, and if we keep working like this we can be more lucky than we were in our last game (against Spurs),” he added.

“We’ve just played against two great teams but you could see no difference. Chelsea was a really good game and we took a risk with the penalty, but luckily they didn’t score, and against Tottenham we made a great effort with 10 against 11, but in the end it was unlucky what happened.”

Flores has been praised for blending a squad which saw heavy investment over the summer. With a host of new faces from across the globe, the Spaniard has made light of the challenge and believes there is more to come.


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