Manuel Pellegrini claims he never lost faith that Manchester City could win the Premier League after his side regained control of the title race with a 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace.
On a potentially decisive weekend in the battle for supremacy at the top of the table, City took full advantage of Liverpool’s unexpected 2-0 defeat at home to Chelsea with a ruthless performance just hours later in south London.
City remain third but they are now only three points adrift of Liverpool, crucially with a game in hand and a vastly superior goal difference, and one behind second placed Chelsea.
Pellegrini’s team know that, whatever Liverpool and Chelsea do in their last two matches, City will be crowned champions for the second time in three years if they win their final three fixtures at Everton next Saturday and then at home against Aston Villa and West Ham — providing they maintain their goal difference advantage over Liverpool.
It is an enviable position, although not one that many would have envisaged for City just two weeks ago when they followed an agonising 3-2 defeat at Liverpool with a lacklustre draw against struggling Sunderland.
Yet Pellegrini insists he never doubted City would get another shot at the silverware given the unpredictable nature of this season’s title race.
“We have always trusted that we can do it. After we lost to Liverpool I said that things can still happen. We just had to win our games,” Pellegrini said.
“For the moment we’ll continue in third position, so we have to play and win our three games.
“But the good thing is that the destiny is in our own hands at the moment.
“Do we have the advantage? No. But it depends what we can do in the future, that’s very important. We have to remain focused on ourselves.”
Pellegrini revealed City’s players were keeping tabs on the action at Anfield before they kicked off at Palace, and he was quick to warn them not to lose focus once that result went their way.
They heeded his words with a powerful display as Edin Dzeko headed home from Yaya Toure’s cross in the fourth minute before Toure underlined his huge importance to the team with a superb solo effort in the 43rd minute to mark his return from a groin injury.
“The players knew the (Liverpool) score, but it was a very professional performance. It could have been difficult for us to manage the game but we did it very well,” Pellegrini said.
“They knew if they beat Palace they had it in their own hands and reacted in the best way. They scored an early goal and kept a clean-sheet.
“Yaya only worked with the team the last two days, that’s why he didn’t play more than 60 minutes.
“But he’s a very important player for us. You saw him, he was important for both goals.”
When City won the title in 2012 it was only goal difference that separated them from Manchester United and a similar scenario could be looming this time, with their +58 goal difference already vastly superior to Liverpool’s +50.
The most testing of City’s remaining three matches appears to be their next at Everton.
While they may not relish helping their local rivals Liverpool in their title bid, Everton will be making one last push to catch Arsenal in the chase for Champions League qualification and Goodison Park has not been a happy hunting ground for City, who have lost their last four visits.
Unsurprisingly, Pellegrini refused to bite when offered the opportunity to declare City as champions-elect, preferring to focus on the tricky challenge posed by Everton.
“We are not thinking about goal difference, we are just thinking about how to beat Everton,” he said.
“I’ve said all year that all the big teams must feel pressure to win the title.
“Now we’ll continue with the same pressure, but it’s positive pressure.”