Pellegrini drops Lampard hint
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has hinted further that Frank Lampard is still likely to be in his squad next month.
Former England midfielder Lampard has made a big impact at the Etihad Stadium since signing on loan from sister club New York City and is expected to extend his stay with the English champions.
The 36-year-old's initial spell is due to expire at the end of this month but Pellegrini has made clear his desire to keep the player.
Lampard has also indicated a willingness to stay and Pellegrini said earlier this week that he expected a decision within the "next days".
Now the Chilean has revealed that having Lampard as potential cover for Yaya Toure during the African Nations Cup, which starts on January 17, was always part of the plan.
"One of the reasons we asked him to play here was because we knew Yaya would be leaving us to go to the African Cup of Nations," Pellegrini said.
It remains to be seen, however, whether Pellegrini will get his wish for Lampard to stay until the end of the season.
The former Chelsea midfielder is a key part of City's bold strategy in New York and Pellegrini's American counterparts want him available for the start of the Major League Soccer season in March.
Negotiations are therefore not straightforward and appear to be taking time, but Pellegrini claims any perceived delay is not an issue.
He said: "The reason (it is taking so long) is not important - the important thing is that he stays here.
"Yes I'm confident he'll stay but I can't say 100 per cent because it doesn't depend just on me.
"It's not so easy because Frank is a New York City player. He's only on loan until December so we must respect the other people."
Toure is likely to join up with his Ivory Coast team-mates for the African Nations Cup after the FA Cup third-round tie against Sheffield Wednesday on January 4.
Ivory Coast play their first match at the tournament in Equatorial Guinea, which ends with the final on February 8, on January 20.
Toure was missed during the tournaments of 2012 and 2013 and that is likely to be the case again as he starts to find form after a difficult start to the season.
But Pellegrini has no complaints about the situation having long known it was a possibility.
He said: "We are not exactly sure of the dates. I think he will play in the FA Cup and then go in the second week of January.
"I think with every club, you know at the start of the season what will happen. You can prepare the season knowing those things and you can do it in the way you think is best.
"Am I happy? No. You always want to retain the best players here but you know he must go. The rules are the rules."
Another player likely to be missing for most of January is top scorer Sergio Aguero, who suffered a knee injury in the defeat of Everton on December 6.
Pellegrini hopes the Argentina striker will be back for the crucial clash with title rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on January 31.
He said: "He'll be back as soon as we hoped. I hope by the end of January he'll be fit."
Chelsea lead the Barclays Premier League by three points from City ahead of the Boxing Day fixtures.
With the Londoners also still in contention in the Champions League and Capital One Cup - and with their FA Cup challenge to begin in January - midfielder Nemanja Matic has spoken of the possibility of winning a quadruple.
City were in a similar position at the same stage last year but eventually had to settle for two trophies.
Pellegrini said: "We tried last year and we couldn't do it, for different reasons. Particularly in the FA Cup we made mistakes, losing at home against Wigan.
"It's always possible - difficult, but possible."
As for whether Chelsea might achieve such an unprecedented feat, Pellegrini is not interested.
"I don't analyse Chelsea," he said. "I will start thinking about them the last week before we play them on January 31."