London: Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini feels the Boxing Day battle with Liverpool will be one of many rounds in a Premier League title fight which has plenty of twists and turns to come.
City remain firmly in contention following a 4-2 win at Fulham last Saturday which took them one point behind leaders Liverpool.
That Liverpool is at the top of the table is because of Luis Suarez’s magnificent form. The Uruguayan striker has scored 19 times in 12 matches this season and looks set to sparkle again on Thursday.
Pellegrini, whose side beat Arsenal 6-3 in their most recent home match, expects a fierce examination of his troops against the resurgent Reds, who won 5-0 at Tottenham in their most recent away game.
“Very difficult,” Pellegrini said. “Liverpool are a very good team and Suarez is in a very good form. But I think this Premier League, we are just finishing the first half, in two more games.
“And this Premier League will not just be Liverpool and Manchester City. It is not a two-horse race. Five or six teams will fight until the end.”
City will be missing striker Sergio Aguero, who has a calf injury and could be out for up to eight weeks. Apart from the Argentinean, hamstring injuries have also ruled out Pablo Zabaleta and Micah Richards.
It means Gael Clichy could again be asked to play on his ‘wrong’ flank but Pellegrini didn’t sound too worried.
“We have a really strong squad with real quality players, who can cope with all the matches, without our injured players and players that can’t play,” Pellegrini said.
City have conceded five goals in two matches, leading some to question their resilience in a title battle which will likely go to the wire. But Pellegrini is adamant the 2012 champions’ approach will not change, even though opponents may adopt an ultra-cautious approach in an effort to stifle his side.
“The way in football is to score goals, that is why people pay for their tickets. Fans are always trying to celebrate the goals of their teams. That is very important, I think it is the best way to win,” Pellegrini said.
“As much as you can. Maybe sometimes winning 1-0 is a very good goal, and that goal is three points more. “But if you are playing well, why would you change if you are winning by two goals? If you are winning by two, why don’t you continue the same way?”
James Milner attributed the win at Fulham, who fought back from two down to level at 2-2 with 20 minutes remaining, to City’s strength of character.
The England midfielder insists the full squad will be required in the coming weeks, with matches in such close proximity. He said: “We’re going to have a lot of games, a lot of games through Christmas and when you look at January it’s just the same, because we’re doing well in the competitions. (Agencies)