Belfast Telegraph

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini backs champions to handle the pressure

By Andy Hampson

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has no doubt his team can handle the pressure of expectation.

City have made a confident start to their Barclays Premier League title defence with back-to-back victories.

Monday's 3-1 win over last season's runners-up Liverpool was a particularly assured performance, as Stevan Jovetic, who missed most of last season through injury, striking twice while star striker Sergio Aguero came off the bench to score for a second successive game.

New signings, particularly midfielder Fernando, have enhanced City's squad but none of this is news to Pellegrini.

The Chilean said: "That expectation does not depend on one game against Liverpool – it depends always.

"We are a strong team, the same as five or six other clubs in England.

"We don't have a problem with that expectation. We need to win and we will try to win always."

Despite that confidence, Pellegrini is taking nothing for granted as former City boss Mark Hughes brings his Stoke side to the Etihad Stadium today.

City have a superb home record against the Potters, having won the last seven encounters. Stoke have not won in the league at City since a second-tier match in 1997. They are also looking for their first league win this season but, for Pellegrini, that counts for nothing.

He said: "Of course I am absolutely sure we are going to have a lot of problems against a difficult team like Stoke.

"Last year, in our best moment, we won just 1-0 at home."

Aguero is fit despite reports of an injury after pictures emerged of him being on the receiving end of a tough tackle in training.

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