City boss Pellegrini expects Leicester response after Reds defeat

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini thinks Leicester can go the distance in the Premier League title race.

PAUL ELLIS

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is convinced Leicester City have what it takes to stay the course in the title race.

Pellegrini has warned his players they must approach Tuesday’s trip to the King Power Stadium as they would any other top-of-the-table contest.

Leicester were the Premier League’s surprise leaders at Christmas and they held onto that spot on Boxing Day despite losing 1-0 at Liverpool.

That was only their second defeat of a season in which Man City have already lost five times and Pellegrini does not believe the Foxes’ Anfield defeat will prompt a slump in form.

Pellegrini, whose side moved within three points of Leicester by beating Sunderland 4-1 on Saturday, said: "Before that, they beat Chelsea and drew against (Manchester) United.

PAPER CHASE

"We must consider Leicester not thinking that they lost on Saturday and could collapse, but as a team that will have options to be fighting for the title until the end. With that mentality we must try to play the game.

"They are top of the table because they deserve to be. They have important players in a very good moment with high performance."

Leicester’s remarkable rise has been fueled by the form of attack duo Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, yet while they may provide a lot of the spark for Claudio Ranieri’s side, Pellegrini is aware there is much more to their team.

Pellegrini said: "Maybe both of them are in a very good performance but I don’t think they could do it if the complete team was not performing well. They are important players but we must think a lot of different things and not just two players.

"We must think about Leicester as a team and hope if we repeat the performance we did on Saturday we can beat them – but it will be a very tough game."

Man City got back on track with a 4-1 win over Sunderland on Sunday, but the result was marred by the substitution of captain Vincent Kompany due to a recurrence of a calf injury just nine minutes after coming on for his first appearance in nine games.

However, Pellegrini confirmed striker Sergio Aguero will be fit for Tuesday’s game, despite being an unused substitute on Saturday.

"Kun [Aguero] was on the bench because if we needed him he could have played in the second half, but we have to play Leicester three days later – a difficult game – and 10 games during January," Pellegrini added.

"He had a small problem so I think it was better not to take any risk and we were winning 3-0 at half-time, so I think it was better for him to rest. He will be 100 per cent on Tuesday."