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Big names returning is the key to City's title challenge, says Pellegrini

By Andy Hampson

Published 26/12/2015

Captain fantastic: Vincent Kompany comes back today against
Sunderland to boost Manchester City’s quest for honours
Captain fantastic: Vincent Kompany comes back today against Sunderland to boost Manchester City’s quest for honours

Manuel Pellegrini is convinced Manchester City have the strongest squad in the Barclays Premier League - if the likes of Vincent Kompany can stay fit.

Kompany, the influential defender and captain, is poised to return for the Boxing Day visit of Sunderland after eight games out with a calf injury.

That comes soon after star striker Sergio Aguero overcame a heel problem and, with Pablo Zabaleta and Fernando also back in the frame, what was recently a worryingly long injury list is easing.

Playmaker Samir Nasri, who is expected to be out until the spring after a tendon operation, is now the only major absentee.

Pellegrini is pleased enough with his side's position - third in the table and still in three other competitions - despite inconsistent form.

But he knows the imminent return of Kompany - after the latest in a series of muscle problems - gives his team a big lift.

The Chilean said: "Vincent is the captain of the team - you cannot be the captain of an important team if you are not an important player.

"You have performance, you must be a leader, you have personality, you have a lot of different things.

"We need Vincent, but this team doesn't depend on one player. It seems that we have a crisis but we don't have a crisis. We are in all the competitions and we did that without a lot of important players.

"But, of course, with all the players fit and playing every game, we are the strongest team.

"Vincent has had a long recovery. We hope that he will not have more problems in the future. It is very difficult to know if he will have them or not but we are going to be optimistic and hope we can have the captain for the rest of the season."

Pellegrini goes into the game with Sunderland against the backdrop of continued speculation about his future.

Pep Guardiola has long been linked with the City manager's post and this has increased considerably in recent days after the much-coveted Catalan announced he would be leaving Bayern Munich in the summer.

Pellegrini claims this does not bother him. He says he can do little about what the club's hierarchy think and is focusing only on the team, knowing that winning a second Premier League title will do his standing no harm.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the 62-year-old said: "You continue trying to have my answers about the future.

"How can I tell you how another person will think about the situation?

"It's very difficult, it's impossible. What I know is that for me, it is very good to win the title," he added.

"I am just thinking about winning against Sunderland. For me, it doesn't matter if I continue or not.

"It's very important to win. You demonstrate what kind of manager you are, and after that you can have another club that maybe they win the title," he explained.

"It's a matter that for me is not important really."

Belfast Telegraph

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