Belfast Telegraph

Sergio Aguero leads the charge as Manchester City start to raise the bar

Pellegrini urges champs to stay on winning trail

By Andy Hampson

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes his team may have clicked into gear but is setting no targets - other than to keep winning.

City have overcome the sticky spell they hit in October and November which saw them win just one in six at one stage by putting together a run of four successive victories.

The last three games of that sequence, starting with a dramatic last-gasp 3-2 win over Bayern Munich, have come in exhilarating fashion, evoking memories of some of last season's best performances.

The charge has been led by Sergio Aguero, who has scored five times in those four matches.

The champions still trail Premier League leaders Chelsea by six points but Pellegrini is not worrying about that just yet.

The Chilean said: "We are not thinking about the six points Chelsea are in front, we are thinking about trying to continue with the performance we did last week to add the most amount of points in the first round (of fixtures).

"We will see on January 1 what is the distance between Chelsea and our team, but the only way is to continue winning."

City's last two games have seen them ease through a potentially difficult game at Southampton 3-0 and thrash Sunderland 4-1.

Pellegrini said: "I think it is similar in the way we played last season, not the complete season, but especially from November until the end of the season, when we played in a high level.

"I think we are returning to our normal performance, that is very important.

"In football you never know (what makes the difference) - just as one thing makes a switch on or off.

"I think the draw that we had with CSKA Moscow was a difficult moment for the team and in that moment we started losing, though we were not playing bad.

"After that game we lost against Newcastle, we lost against the Russian team here and against West Ham. It was not a good moment.

"But maybe after we beat Bayern Munich, the switch changed again and we started playing in the way we normally do."

City's next outing sees them host Everton at the Etihad Stadium this afternoon and Pellegrini is expecting a tough contest despite the Merseysiders' recent underwhelming form.

The Toffees, who finished fifth last season, are currently labouring in 11th in the table and there was booing as they were held to a 1-1 home draw by struggling Hull in midweek.

Pellegrini said: "It is difficult for me to say the reasons why they are playing that way.

"I am sure that against our team here they will be a very strong team, so it is very important not to think about the weaknesses they have shown in the last week and think about the potential they have as a team.

"It is a difficult game because normally the teams of Roberto Martinez play very well."

The game comes four days before City's decisive Champions League Group E game at Roma, where a positive result could see Pellegrini's men through to the last 16.

Pellegrini insists that crucial fixture will not affect his thinking this weekend.

He said: "We have to try to continue winning in the Premier League to discount points on the leaders. We are just thinking about Everton, not the Champions League or Roma. After the game we have four days to think about the next game."

Despite that, neither captain Vincent Kompany nor David Silva will feature against Everton as Pellegrini saves them for a potential return against Roma.

Playmaker Silva has missed the last seven games with a knee injury but is thought to be close to returning, while Kompany was ruled out of the Sunderland trip with a hamstring injury.

Asked if the pair will travel to the Italian capital, Pellegrini said at a press conference: "It is possible. We don't know how much of (a) possibility it is but it is possible.

"Vincent is not in the squad list tomorrow, he is working. Maybe we will have a last test with him on Monday or Tuesday to decide."

Other positive news for City is that striker Edin Dzeko and defender Aleksandar Kolarov have recovered from their calf problems and are available.

Forward Stevan Jovetic will be rested as a precaution after a knock in midweek but in Sergio Aguero, who has 19 goals for the season, City have one of the country's most in-form players.

Pellegrini said: "Sergio is part of the team. It is very important for him, and in the way this team play, to continue in his high performance because he is a player that makes the difference."

Man City v Everton, Premier League: Etihad Stadium, 5.30pm (Sky Sports 1)

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