Belfast Telegraph

More than two clubs in the title race: Pellegrini

By Mark Ogden

Manuel Pellegrini has claimed that Manchester City's match with Arsenal tonight will not prove decisive in the Premier League title race after insisting that Leicester City must now be considered genuine challengers to be crowned champions.

Manchester City face Arsenal at the Emirates in the first meeting this season between the two teams regarded as the most likely title winners, but with Leicester confirming themselves in the Christmas No. 1 spot by defeating Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday, neither Pellegrini's side nor Arsenal will dislodge Claudio Ranieri's team from the Premier League summit with a win this evening.

And Pellegrini, who is set to restore fit-again forward Sergio Aguero to City's starting line up, believes the new year will see a title race involving as many as seven clubs, with Leicester leading the way.

"It is not a decisive game against Arsenal because after that, we have to play 21 games more and that is a lot of points," Pellegrini said.

"It is important to demonstrate who is the best team of the first round and it is important to play against the team who is one point above our team, but I think that Leicester finished the first round still at the top of the table.

"Manchester United is just a few points behind us, Tottenham can be involved and Liverpool and Crystal Palace can be involved too.

"You have to play so many games that it is impossible to think just two teams can be involved in the title.

"It is a very important game (tonight), it is a game of six points, but you can win and the most important rival with Leicester will stay in the same position."

City visit Arsene Wenger's Gunners aiming to improve on a woeful away record that has seen them fail to collect all three points since Kelechi Iheanacho scored a stoppage-time winner at Crystal Palace in September. Since then, they have suffered a 4-1 defeat at Tottenham and failed to score in three successive Premier League away games against United, Aston Villa and Stoke City.

And as they face a daunting run of away trips in all competitions, Pellegrini admits his team must quickly end their poor form away from the Etihad.

"Yes, we have to play five of the next six games away and maybe the last results of the games we play away were not as good as we want," he said.

"It is a good target to try and continue to return to our clean sheets, it is a good target to make an important advance in the position in the Premier League, but playing away is always a bit more difficult.

"There are a lot of things we have to consider and the most important thing is to think game by game and not what can happen in May. They are very important games in the coming weeks, but not decisive."

Belfast Telegraph


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