Manchester - Manuel Pellegrini has warned
his Manchester City stars there can be no repeat of their woeful defeat at
Liverpool if they are to revive their slender Premier League title hopes
against Aston Villa.
City's 3-0 loss at Anfield was their third
league defeat in a row and even though they have a game in a hand, bridging a
10-point gap between themselves and leaders Leicester City over the final two
months of the season will be a monumental task.
The worrying statistic for City is that,
despite looking good in cup competitions, they have won just one of four league
matches since boss Pellegrini announced on February 1 that he would be leaving
at the end of the season to make way for Pep Guardiola.
A home game against bottom club Villa on
Saturday ought to provide the opportunity to begin collecting league points
again and Pellegrini has made clear that a repeat of Wednesday's performance
will not be accepted.
"Of course, we cannot play in the way
we did. Not only did we concede three goals but we didn't shoot once at the
Liverpool goal," Pellegrini said.
"I think it was because we were not
fresh. I am not thinking about the title and not thinking about trying to
qualify for the next stage of the Champions League.
"The most important thing is to
recover our level of performance in the Premier League because we have lost the
"I am surprised by this. We didn't
expect to lose 3-0 at Liverpool."
The match against Villa will be City's
fifth in 14 days, a sequence that has brought mixed results.
The highlights were undoubtedly a 3-1 away
win over Dynamo Kiev that leaves Pellegrini's side well placed to reach the
Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in their history, and the
penalty shoot-out victory over Liverpool at Wembley in the League Cup final.
His team looked weary at Anfield on
Wednesday, though, and were overwhelmed in midfield without the influence of
Yaya Toure, who missed the match with a foot injury.
Toure, who scored the winning kick in the
League Cup final shoot-out, will be assessed to see if he is fit to return.
City remain without winger Kevin De Bruyne,
who is expected to return from a knee injury at the beginning of April, which
is also when midfielder Samir Nasri hopes to be fit again, having been out of
action since October with hamstring problems.
Villa, who appear doomed to relegation
after another defeat in midweek left them eight points adrift of safety, could
have a bearing on the title race in the coming weeks with a game against
Tottenham Hotspur to follow their clash with City.
But Villa manager Remi Garde is adamant his
club still have something to play for in their own right.
"We are now coming into games against
teams at the top of the table at the end of the season, which is not a good thing
because points are crucial for them as well as us," Garde said.
"But in football you never know.
Sometimes games are going in a way that no one has expected before.
"We must ensure we are not focused too
much on our opponents - we have to focus on what we can improve and what we
"We have to do the maximum every game
and not focus too much on what others can do."
Garde has spoken to his players in the wake
of Tuesday's 3-1 home defeat to Everton.
"I said to them that in difficult
situations like this one we have to stick all together," Garde added.
"It's already very difficult outside
the changing room and I don't want anyone in the group to add problems within
us. We will stick together and look to win the next game."