Bournemouth - Manuel Pellegrini hit back at the critics after Manchester City warmed up for their Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint Germain with an impressive 4-0 victory at Bournemouth.
Goals by Fernando, Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Aleksandar Kolarov at Dean Court on Saturday tightened City's hold on fourth place in the Premier League and boosted confidence ahead of Wednesday's first leg in Paris.
A poor run of five losses in seven league matches before the international break, including three successive home defeats to title rivals Leicester and Tottenham and in the derby against Manchester United, caused some to doubt that City manager Pellegrini, due to be replaced by Pep Guardiola next season, could still motivate his players.
City's dominant display on the south-coast was the perfect answer and left them in control of their own destiny in the race to qualify for next season's Champions League.
Even without Joe Hart, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Raheem Sterling, City were too good for Bournemouth and Pellegrini took the opportunity to make a point to the doubters.
"The best way to prepare for the next game was to focus on this game, return to our style of play, try to recover the normal performance of our important players," Pellegrini said.
"We have had a lot of criticism this season but although we have had so many injuries to important players, it is one of the merits of this squad that we are the team that continues to fight in every competition to the end.
"We are the last English team in the Champions League, we won the League Cup, we were forced to go out of the FA Cup because we had several players injured and we prioritised the Premier League and the Champions League.
"Unfortunately for us we lost three games at home, to Leicester, Tottenham and Manchester United.
"Of course if you have your players all fit together you win games more easily and that's the way we started the season, winning the first five games.
"If you play without Kevin (De Bruyne), without Yaya (Toure), without (Vincent) Kompany, of course it's another team. But I am very happy with the response of the squad.
"It has not been a bad season apart from the last three home games. I hope we are going to finish the season the same way we started."
Although City trail 12 points behind Leicester, Pellegrini would not even rule out the possibility of winning the Premier League title.
"If you have a winning mentality you must always think you can do it if the mathematics allow you to do it," he said.
"Of course if you drop points in the way we did it in the last few games it is more difficult. And we don't depend on just what we can do."
Pellegrini admitted Belgium midfielder De Bruyne, outstanding at Bournemouth on his return from a two-month absence caused by ankle ligament and knee injuries, had made a welcome return ahead of the PSG clash.
"He's a very important player," Pellegrini said. "Before he was injured he was playing well, one of the players who was scoring and it was unlucky for him to have that injury.
"He gives Aguero more space. From watching him in training, I was sure he would play the same way he was playing before his injury."