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Pellegrini 'can plug Kompany gap'


Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has faith in his defence

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has faith in his defence

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has faith in his defence

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is confident his defence will stand up to the test in the absence of captain Vincent Kompany this weekend.

City's influential captain is suspended for the visit of struggling Fulham in the Barclays Premier League after his sending off at Hull last Saturday.

With Matija Nastasic nursing a knee injury, that could mean the much-maligned Martin Demichelis and Joleon Lescott, who endured a torrid time at Barcelona last week, are again partnered at the back.

City's defence has been one of their weaknesses all season and they looked particularly vulnerable when Kompany endured an injury-hit first three months of the campaign.

But Pellegrini said of the Belgian: "He is the captain of the team, he is a very important player but we have had so many injuries during the whole year from different players and always we have managed to play well.

"I am sure the players who will play instead of Vincent will play well."

Pellegrini also admits to having fitness concerns about Nastasic, who has missed the last eight games in all competitions with a knee injury and has been out much longer than initially anticipated.

The Chilean said: "He continues with some pain in his knee. He has at least a couple more weeks to recover.

"Of course we are concerned because the doctor doesn't know what happened with him. He made all the exams that he needs but we don't know what happened with him.

"We are taking other opinions. The doctor is in charge of that.

"The player feels a pain inside the knee but nobody knows what the pain is."

City have a tough week ahead, with the Fulham clash followed by the derby at champions Manchester United next Tuesday and then a trip to title rivals Arsenal.

Pellegrini's men also have a trip to Liverpool, another side in the title race, to come.

Yet for now his only focus is bottom side Fulham and what he believes could be a tricky contest.

He said: "I think it is just a very tough game. All the teams in the last position - not only in the relegation positions but in the last position in the table in the second round (of fixtures) - try to add points everywhere.

"A team like Fulham are used to defending and with Felix Magath - he always plays his teams with a lot of intensity - I am sure we need to work very hard during the 95 minutes if we want to win.

"That is why we start a very important week, but the most important game in this week is Fulham.

"I am talking to the players, trying to convince all of them it is always a difficult game.

"Maybe for important games, with the most important teams, the motivation is alone - you don't need to talk too much.

"But in these kind of games, it is very important to play from the beginning as a final."

Fulham winger Ashkan Dejagah has been ruled out with a muscle problem.

Striker Kostas Mitroglou is missing with a knee problem sustained last week but is expected to return against Everton on March 30.

Midfielder Scott Parker remains in the treatment room with his knee injury, while winger Damien Duff is out for the rest of the season, also because of a knee issue.

Fulham are four points adrift of safety with eight matches remaining, their victory over Newcastle a first Premier League win since January 14 against Norwich.

Magath insists the Cottagers can return from Manchester with some reward, but refuses to set a points target for survival.

"I don't count points because I have no influence on what the other teams will do. I don't care, I only look at the next game," he said.

"I'm looking to take a point at Man City, so we'll see. We want to win our home games and we did well against Newcastle.

"We're developing step by step and I was very satisfied with the game against Newcastle over 90 minutes because we didn't concede.

"There is always a chance, even in difficult games like Manchester City. Now we know that we must not concede. We can defend very well.

"If we make it difficult for Man City to score, we'll have a chance to score for ourselves. I hope we'll create more chances."