Pellegrini wary of Hammers

LONDON. — Manuel Pellegrini has told Yaya Toure to forget about his future and focus on helping Manchester City win the title.

Toure is at the centre of attention again after his agent insisted this week the Ivorian star could leave the Etihad at the end of this season.

The outspoken Dimitry Seluk said Toure would look at all his options before making a decision in the close season. But Pellegrini admits he isn’t interested in what might happen then and is only concerned with now.

City face West Ham today, when Toure is expected to be recalled to Pellegrini’s starting XI having been rested for last weekend’s home win over Crystal Palace. Pellegrini said: “For Yaya, the most important thing is that he thinks about the next game.

“At the end of the season anything can happen, but the most important thing now is to think about this season and winning titles.”

Pellegrini has urged his side to go on the all-out attack in a bid to land the title and he said: “Our mentality is always to be an attacking team and create chances. It’s the way we want to play and the best way for this team to win titles. We are the team that has scored the most goals and we must make sure this continues.”

Pellegrini, meanwhile, will still be without injured stars Vincent Kompany, Samir Nasri, Wilfried Bony and Eliaquim Mangala for the trip to the Hammers, although Fernandinho is set to return.

But Pellegrini expects another difficult test of Manchester City’s ability to win a “different” English Premier League title race when they face top-six challengers West Ham today.

The Hammers were unbeaten in eight league games before losing at Newcastle last week and are sixth in the table. Slaven Bilic’s side have been something of a surprise package in a season which has seen the traditional heavyweights struggle to impose themselves on the title race, with Leicester currently behind leaders Arsenal only on goal difference.

Pellegrini’s team brushed aside a Crystal Palace side enjoying one of their best top-flight seasons last weekend with a comfortable 4-0 home win.

But City, a point behind the leaders in third place, were beaten at home by the Hammers in September and manager Pellegrini knows they can’t take any result for granted at Upton Park this weekend.

“I don’t know if the word is surprised. Most of the teams in the Premier League have very good players,” Pellegrini said when asked about the strong performances of several unheralded teams this season.

“If you have good players and a good performance as a team I think everyone can beat another team. The difference is very slight between one team and another. That gives more importance to the Premier League. We are not only talking about Crystal Palace and West Ham, but I think Leicester are the same way and Everton.”

City play Everton in the second leg of their League Cup semi-final next Wednesday, trailing 2-1 from the first meeting. They were also unable to beat the Merseysiders in the league just over a week ago when the sides drew 0-0 at Eastlands. City are unbeaten in five league games but have just 43 points — half the total they managed when winning the title in 2014.

They are unlikely to match the 86 points they managed then or the 89 they accrued when winning the league two years earlier.

Pellegrini expects a lower total to become champions this season, but he won’t mind as long as City finish top.

“This is not a normal league. In the last 10 leagues the team who has won it has got over 80 points – maybe that won’t happen this time,” he said.

“So it’s a different league and it’s not a case of our team wasting the opportunity to win it. It’s a strong league.

“If you win it, it’s because you were the best team. It doesn’t matter how many points.”

West Ham’s impressive run of form since the end of November — last weekend’s defeat at Newcastle was their first loss in 10 games — has moved Bilic’s side up to sixth and prompted talk of a top four challenge.

Bilic’s dealings in the transfer market this month could determine whether they can sustain their challenge, although the Hammers boss has denied he is interested in signing striker Daniel Sturridge from Liverpool.

Sam Byram, the young right-back, has arrived from Leeds, but Bilic concedes the defender has been bought with next season in mind while Mauro Zarate and Nikica Jelavic could leave the club. — AFP.

 

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