Belfast Telegraph

Pellegrini defends Toure

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes Yaya Toure's form could be suffering as he comes to terms with his brother's death.

And Pellegrini, whose renowned man-management skills were a key factor in his appointment at the Etihad Stadium, has offered the club's full support to his star midfielder.

Pellegrini's thoughts throw a different light on Toure's below-par performances in the opening weeks of the new season.

The Ivorian has not matched the standards he set during a brilliant 2013-14 campaign, with critics coming out in force after Wednesday's Champions League loss at Bayern Munich.

The 31-year-old's fitness, body language, commitment and defensive work were all questioned after a particularly ineffectual second-half display at the Allianz Arena. There were also suggestions the City talisman could be past his best.

Toure's disappointing form comes after a turbulent summer in which he criticised the club and speculation arose over his future.

But Pellegrini insists those issues have not affected him and any lack of edge could be down to the impact of the loss of his younger brother Ibrahim to cancer in June.

Pellegrini, speaking at a press conference, said: "He is a player that makes a difference in big games.

"Maybe some of you think it's strange he is not in the best moment, but we started the season and maybe he had a lot of personal problems with his brother, not what was said in the media, but in what he feels about it. There are a lot of human things and maybe that is why he is not in his best performance at the moment.

"I think as a team, as a coach, as a club we must support him because he is a very important player. He makes a difference and I'm sure he will return to his best."

Pellegrini claims criticism is nothing new to Toure. Even last season, when he played a key role in City's title success and scored 20 league goals, he had moments of indifference and was described by former Blues midfielder Dietmar Hamann as a "liability".

Pellegrini said: "I think Yaya in the last season, when he was in his best moment, always received criticism about how he plays.

"It is very easy to say he should score 20 goals but must also defend and have better pace, and a lot of (other) things. I don't think Yaya has any problem."

Pellegrini did not answer a question about whether Toure could be left out of the side to give him time to refocus.

The Chilean said: "What I think about the players I talk with the players personally."

City return to Barclays Premier League action on Sunday in a crunch clash against leaders and chief title rivals Chelsea at Eastlands.

City could give a home debut to Chelsea's all-time leading goalscorer Frank Lampard, who was released by the Stamford Bridge club in the summer and is now on loan from New York City.

There were reports at the time of his signing that Lampard, 36, would be reluctant to play against Chelsea but Pellegrini insists that is not true.

The 61-year-old said: "Frank is part of our squad. I don't think it is a difficult situation for him.

"I think Frank didn't continue at Chelsea because they didn't want him, not because he wanted to come here to Manchester City.

"He can't continue playing in the team he played his whole life, but he has all the rights to continue playing football. He arrived here and we are very happy with him."

Pellegrini also denied there is an issue with new defender Eliaquim Mangala, who has still not featured since his £32million signing from Porto last month.

He said: "He needs some time to understand the way we defend. He is ready and maybe he will be involved soon in our team.

"The other important reason is that I think (Vincent) Kompany and (Martin) Demichelis are in a very good moment. They are defending very well and that is why for the moment he is not playing."

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