Man City manager Pellegrini backs Toure to be on top form

Manuel Pellegrini is confident Manchester City will see Yaya Toure back to his best after insisting the problems the player faced last season are now behind him.

Toure was on the scoresheet as City showed their Premier League title credentials with an impressive 3-0 opening-game win away to West Bromwich Albion on Monday.

Having seen rivals Chelsea and Arsenal both slip up over the weekend, City manager Pellegrini’s team took full advantage with a dominant display which will give them confidence ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Jose Mourinho’s champions.

Having struggled to find his best form for a variety of reasons last term, the performance of Ivory Coast star Toure stood out as he gave signs he is fit and focused with a dominant display at the heart of City’s midfield.

“I always said last season it was a strange season for Yaya, he started with a lot of problems, the death of his brother, his agents, I think he was not focused maybe on what he had to do last year,” Pellegrini explained.

“We spoke a long way before the start of the season and I am very sure we will see the Yaya from two years ago. He is a very important player for us,” the Chilean added.

“I don’t think Yaya deserved the amount of criticism he received last season. It was not his best season but he did not play so, so bad like everyone said.

“But he is an important player for us. I am sure last season his head was not in his best moment. It is very difficult for a player when you have so many problems.”

– More trust –

Toure and David Silva combined to hand City the initiative just nine minutes in, with the Spain international flicking home his team-mate’s shot with the aid of a deflection before midfielder Toure curled home a fine second goal 15 minutes later.

With Vincent Kompany making the points certain, City’s old guard overshadowed £49 million ($76 million) record signing Raheem Sterling on his competitive debut.

The former Liverpool forward twice had good opportunities to join them on the scoresheet only to be foiled from close range by Baggies goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.

“I’m not disappointed because Raheem plays 70 minutes very well (before he was substituted),” said Pellegrini. “If he continues to play like this I am sure he will be the player we bought.”

Pellegrini played down the significance of this weekend’s meeting with Chelsea, who already trail City by two points following Saturday’s draw against Swansea.

“It is important to have a difference with them at the start of the season because they are one of the five teams who have the most chance to win the title.

“Every point is important but the gap after the second game is not decisive… It is important to beat the champions of last year to give you more trust.”

West Brom boss Tony Pulis refused to blame his players for the defeat. “I take responsibility for the way we set up and the fact we had (two strikers) Saido Berahino and Rickie Lambert both playing,” said Pulis.

“I have to look at it and say if I did it again I would probably do it differently. The pivotal moment was when I decided to play the two up front instead of an extra man in midfield.”

Pulis hopes the arrival of West Brom’s own record signing, £12 million Venezuela forward Salomon Rondon, will signal a marked improvement after his capture from Zenit St Petersburg on a four-year deal was sealed hours before kick-off.

“Speaking to Manuel (Pellegrini) and Andre Villas-Boas (the Zenit coach) who have both worked with the lad, he comes highly recommended,” said Pulis. Pellegrini had previously coached Rondon at Malaga

“He has played a good level, has a good goalscoring record, he is quick and powerful and at that price hopefully it turns out to be a good deal for us.

“The reason Zenit had to sell him is their quota of foreign players had been cut.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Pellegrini won’t write off Man City’s Premier League title bid

Manuel Pellegrini refused to write off Manchester City’s fading bid to retain the Premier League title despite a 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace that left them nine points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

Pellegrini’s side have just seven games to close the gap and while City manager Pellegrini insisted he was happy with his side’s performance at Selhurst Park on Monday, their recent results suggest there is little chance of the champions reviving their challenge.

An inconsistent display in south London condemned City to a third successive away loss in the league for the first time since 2011 and Pellegrini’s team have now won just four of their last 11 league games.

However, the Chilean says his immediate concern is Sunday’s derby clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford, and not their prospects of overhauling Chelsea.

“We are not thinking about Chelsea and titles. We go each game and try to win. At the end of the season, we will see,” Pellegrini said when asked about City’s hopes of winning the league.

“Every point you drop makes it more difficult, but it’s the same answer. We are not thinking about the title… Just about the next game at Old Trafford.”

City’s failure to mount a more convincing title defence and the manner of their last 16 exit from the Champions League has raised questions about the manager’s future at the club.

But an unflustered Pellegrini said: “I’m never concerned about my job. That’s the only thing I’m never concerned about.

“I do my work and am very happy. You maybe have a difficult season, but you never worry about things like this.”

– Difficult moments –

Glenn Murray’s fifth goal in five games set Palace on course for the win in the 34th minute, although Pellegrini and his players were convinced the effort should have been ruled out for offside.

Jason Puncheon added a second with a 48th minute free-kick and while Yaya Toure gave City hope of a comeback with a 78th minute strike, Palace repelled the visitors’ late pressure.

“In different moments in football, you can win or lose. I hope we continue playing like we did today and we are more lucky,” added Pellegrini.

“It’s difficult to understand the result. We played a very good game from beginning to end, had a lot of chances to score.

“Crystal Palace scored the first goal which was clearly offside, and then a beautiful free-kick.

“It’s difficult to understand, but football happens like this.”

Palace manager Alan Pardew offered Pellegrini some hope the title race may yet produce some more twists and turns.

“It’s difficult now, nine points the gap. A long haul,” he said.

“But psychologically for Chelsea, with all the pack closing in on them, the next defeat or draw for Chelsea will be a big test. You wouldn’t want to lose that kind of lead.

“City are going to have to play on that. There’s a long way to go still, a lot of points up for grabs.

“But I can only look at us: we came up against a committed team; they weren’t lacklustre or poor. They were very good and we had to ride our luck.”

The win continued Palace’s revival under Pardew and having established themselves in mid-table, the manager believes the club can now start looking towards next season.

“We have 39 points on the board, so we’d like to think we’ll be back here in the Premier League next year,” he said.

“My job gets more difficult now after beating the champions here. Expectations will be higher. We have to keep improving on it.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Chelsea have look of champions says Mourinho

Jose Mourinho believes Chelsea are firmly on course to win the Premier League after extending their lead at the top to six points with a battling 3-2 victory at Hull.

The Blues, chasing their first English league crown since 2010, re-established their stranglehold on the title race thanks to Loic Remy’s late winner at the KC Stadium on Sunday.

And with Chelsea holding a game in hand on second placed Manchester City, Mourinho says they are now firm favourites to lift the trophy.

“The title race should be over,” Mourinho said. “The title race in normal conditions, Chelsea should have eight, 10, 12 points more than we have – title race over.

“But football is unpredictable and the reality is we have a six-point lead which is our best situation for the whole season.

“The maximum lead we had was eight but when we had eight we had more matches to go.

“In this moment we have a six-point lead, one match in hand, that can help us have a bigger distance with eight matches to go to our opponents.

“They (City) can make 24 points, if they can make 24 points for us it is a question of mathematics to see how much we need

“I’m pretty confident. I believe in my players, I believe that we can do it.”

Chelsea had to work for their win at Hull, despite making a flying start.

– Conservative and collective –

Goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa put Mourinho’s team two goals ahead in the first nine minutes, but struggling Hull showed admirable determination to draw level with two goals in quick succession from Ahmed Elmohamady and Abel Hernandez before half-time.

Substitute Remy scored the winning goal with 13 minutes left after replacing the injured Costa.

Costa has suffered a recurrence of the hamstring injury that has bothered him since last season and is a doubt for Spain’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Ukraine on March 27.

“For Diego (the international break) is good, because imagine we play three matches in one week, that’s three matches he doesn’t play,” Mourinho said.

“I don’t think it will need an operation. Our doctor is against surgeries, against knives.

“We are all in favour of conservative work and collective work between medical department and fitness technical staff. This is the direction we believe.”

While Chelsea’s sights are on the Premier League title, Hull’s attention lies at the other end of the table.

They remain three points clear of the relegation zone after the six lowest teams in the league all suffered defeats over the weekend.

Despite Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United featuring in the Tigers’ run-in, boss Steve Bruce remains bullish about their survival prospects.

“I’m sure we’ve got enough and I’m convinced if we play like that we’re good enough to stay in this division,” Bruce said.

“We’re ready for the challenge. We’ve seen that over the last few weeks.

“We had an awful couple of months in winter time but just lately we’ve seen a bit of resilience come back into them.

“That’s as good a display from us for a long time.

“We gave Chelsea a hell of a run for their money and on another day it could have gone our way.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Hart warns Man City to beware Burnley threat

Joe Hart has warned Manchester City to learn the lessons of their past encounters with struggling Premier League clubs as they prepare to face Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday.

City surrendered a 2-0 advantage to draw 2-2 with Sean Dyche’s team on December 28 and have also dropped points against QPR, Everton and Hull, all of whom are in the bottom seven in the table.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side beat Leicester 2-0 in their last outing on March 4, but were made to work hard by the lowly Foxes before James Milner scored in the 89th minute to seal the points.

“Last week, we played Leicester, who are bottom of the league and had to fight for a 2-0 – it will be the same at Burnley,” City goalkeeper Hart said.

“That is just how it is in the Premier League, and as soon as you let that get to you, it will crush you.”

The champions’ missed opportunities have been exploited by Chelsea, who lead the league by five points, having played one game fewer.

Pellegrini is expected to have a full-strength squad to choose from, but the Chilean will be mindful of keeping his stars fresh for City’s Champions League last 16 second leg in Barcelona on Wednesday.

City trail 2-1 from the first leg and David Silva, who was named City’s player of the month for February, is likely to play a key role in shaping the club’s hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals.

– Among the best –

Team-mate Frank Lampard believes the Spaniard has the quality to grace any team.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to play alongside players like Gianfranco Zola, Arjen Robben and Eden Hazard among others and he’s completely up there with the best,” said former Chelsea midfielder Lampard.

“From the moment I arrived and started training with him in pre-season I could better appreciate his weight of pass, movement, and his touch and he could play in any team in the world.

“It’s been a pleasure to play and train alongside him or even just to watch him. The way he holds himself, too, impresses me because he’s one of the most humble top players I’ve ever come across – that’s something I love because it’s refreshing to see.

“To be at the top of your game, have all the medals he has and do what he does week in, week out and yet it’s still like he’s just coming in, doing his day job and going home.”

The last time Burnley were in the Premier League, in 2009-10, they also drew at Eastlands.

But they were swamped 6-1 in the reverse meeting, conceding three goals in the opening seven minutes, as they headed for relegation.

The Lancashire club are in the bottom three again and, after failing to win in seven league games, manager Dyche is aware of the scale of the task facing his side.

“We know the power of these clubs. There’s lots been made of the spending power but you’ve still got to spend it wisely and I think they have,” he said.

“They have got some fantastic players. We experienced that once before and gave a good performance and I think overall on the day deserved a point.

“But we know that doesn’t guarantee anything this time. They are a highly motivated group of players, still in the hunt for the league with a very experienced and fantastic manager. So obviously it’s a big challenge once again.”

Burnley have signed Norwegian international midfielder Fredrik Ulvestad, 22, as a free agent on a three-year deal, but the former Aalesunds FK player is not yet considered ready for first-team contention.

Photo Credits : AFP

Man City keep pace with Chelsea

David Silva and James Milner eased the pressure mounting steadily on Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini but it was a far from convincing 2-0 victory for the reigning Premier League champions against struggling Leicester at the Etihad Stadium.

Recent demoralising losses to Barcelona and Liverpool had brought Pellegrini’s future with City into the spotlight and the manner of this return to winning ways arguably raised more questions than it provided answers about the team’s recent loss of form.

Manchester City returned to winning ways to keep alive their hopes of retaining the title and are now trailing behind leaders Chelsea, who have a game in hand, by five points.

Silva ensured a frustrating opening 45 minutes at least ended on a high note for City as he claimed the goal that a lack of invention and belief had made appear unlikely until that point.

It stemmed from a bad Leicester mistake, Jeff Schlupp losing the ball in his own half and allowing Yaya Toure to spark a counter-attack with a pass to Silva who, in turn, hit Aleksandar Kolarov wide on the left.

The full-back’s cross was half-met by full debutant Wilfried Bony, with the ball breaking kindly for Silva who, having seen his initial shot blocked by Wes Morgan, scrambled in the rebound.

Two minutes from full-time, substitute Milner finally brought City some breathing room when he turned the ball in from six yards after neat approach play and a right-wing cross from Jesus Navas.

The unconvincing opening goal had summed up an unconvincing half for City and Pellegrini who had relegated club captain Vincent Kompany, among others, to the bench following a run of poor performances.

In fairness to City, the evening would have been far more routine had Bony scored inside the opening three minutes when his firm header, from a Silva corner, was comfortably cleared off the line by Esteban Cambiasso.

But, instead, City lived anxiously – and dangerously – as the half progressed. Bony, defending a Leicester corner, went in over-enthusiastically on Schlupp and was relieved to see the referee wave away a strong penalty appeal.

And there was another such shout from the visitors two minutes later, as Andrej Kramaric chased Riyad Mahre’s through ball with goalkeeper Joe Hart saving at the forward’s feet and surviving a less convincing appeal on that occasion.

City learned from those scares, however, and after 34 minutes referee Robert Madley played an excellent advantage, following a foul on Silva, which allowed Navas to surge into the area and cross for Bony who couldn’t make clean contact inside the six-yard area and was denied superbly by Schwarzer’s reflexes.

The Australian goalkeeper was soon called into action again, this time diving to keep out a Navas shot after the City winger appeared on the left-hand corner of the penalty area and Bony could have ended a frustrating first half on a high note as he expertly controlled Silva’s lob forward but his hurried shot flew high and wide over the Leicester goal.

The lacklustre evening being endured by City and Bony continued after the restart when the new forward somehow managed to hit the left-hand corner flag from six yards out.

And a clumsy challenge by Fernando on Andrej Kramaric moments later had Leicester supporters appealing for yet another spot kick before the referee awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area which the Leicester striker placed into the side-netting via a deflection off the wall.

Kolarov’s 55th minute cross gave Aguero the opportunity to kill off the contest although his header was saved, superbly, by Schwarzer – not for the first time.

That ensured some anxiety for City as Leicester substitute David Nugent missed an open net at the far post, before an offside flag spared his blushes, and Mahrez came within inches of an equaliser when his 75th minute effort struck a post.

Either side of those efforts, there were further opportunities for the home side but the magnificent Schwarzer again frustrated City with an acrobatic stop from Toure’s 18-yard chip before denying Kolarov and Silva with a brilliant double save.

Photo Credits : AFP

Man City eye another Wembley FA Cup triumph

Manchester City’s recent emergence as a genuine footballing power started with FA Cup success in 2011 and, if manager Manuel Pellegrini has his way, it will continue with another triumph at Wembley in May.

The current Premier League joint-leaders face an apparently easy third round home tie on Sunday against Championship club Sheffield Wednesday, whom they defeated 7-0 in the League Cup as recently as September.

The FA Cup has played a key role in City’s recent resurgence, with former manager Roberto Mancini ending the club’s 35-year wait for silverware when he masterminded final victory against Stoke four years ago.

There was a return to Wembley for the 2013 final, and a far different outcome, as City were stunned by Wigan in one of the biggest final upsets of all time, a result which led to the club sacking Mancini.

Little wonder, then, that Pellegrini, who won a Wembley final last season against Sunderland in the League Cup, is placing great store in the competition as City look to ensure they end the season with at least one piece of silverware.

“It’s the start of the FA Cup, which is a very important cup for our team,” he said. “Last year we were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Wigan but won the (League) Cup.

“This year, we were eliminated early from the (League Cup), so we need to try and continue as far as we can.”

Recent injuries – particularly in attack – mean Pellegrini will rotate his squad for the third round game and young forward Jose Angel Pozo, who scored his first and so far only senior goal in that League Cup victory against Wednesday, is in line for what would be only the second start of his career.

“It will be a club that I always remember because I made my debut against them and scored,” said 18-year-old Pozo.

– Run of success –

“So it would be fantastic to play them again and re-live a very happy moment for me. “I did allow myself a smile when we had drawn them again in the FA Cup but just because we won the (League Cup) game 7-0 doesn’t mean this won’t be a difficult match.

“We want to do well in this competition and it means a lot to this club because it was the trophy that started a run of success for us.

“Looking ahead, it goes without saying I would like to stay with the first team and have more opportunities to play this season – that’s my objective – but we will see what happens.”

Sheffield Wednesday boast an admirable FA Cup pedigree, with six appearances in the final to their name but they last lifted the trophy in 1935 – one of three triumphs in the competition.

The Owls’ most recent bow in a final came in 1993, when they were beaten 2-1 by Arsenal in a replay.

The South Yorkshire club reached the fifth round last season but know as well as anyone they face a daunting task to progress past the third round this time.

The 7-0 defeat at the Etihad earlier this term saw all the goals coming in the second half but, nevertheless, manager Stuart Gray believes his side return to the Etihad Stadium with hope.

“A tie at Manchester City is something to look forward to,” Gray said. “We go there full of confidence and we are looking forward to it and I am hoping to do better than we did last time. It is the Cup and there is always a shock.”

Newcastle spring Cup surprise on holders Manchester City in 2-0 win

Holders Manchester City were knocked out of the League Cup as a youthful Newcastle side earned the club’s first win in 12 attempts at Etihad Stadium.

Teenage forward Rolando Aarons put the visitors ahead with an angled drive into the far corner.

Newcastle keeper Rob Elliot superbly denied Stevan Jovetic before his skipper Fabricio Coloccini sliced against the post before half-time.

Moussa Sissoko slid in the second as Newcastle reached the last eight.

Now they will travel to Premier League rivals Tottenham in the next round, bidding for a place in the semi-finals for the first time since 1975-76.

 

West Ham 2 Manchester City 1

Despite being shown a yellow card for a bad foul in the 6th minute Morgan Amalfitano put West Ham United in the lead at the 20th minute as he put in a right footed shot from very close range to the bottom left corner assisted by Enner Valencia.

Diafra Sakho scored his 7th goal in his 7th game since signing at West Ham in the 74th minute through a header right from the center of the box keeping West Ham in the lead.

David Silva may have scored the best goal of the season as he tried to equalize for Manchester City at the 76th minute. City now suffer their first premier league away defeat of the season and are now at number 3, 5 points behind lead Chelsea.