Pellegrini warns Man City not to rest on laurels
Manchester City's Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini gestures during the match against Blackburn Rovers at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on January 15, 2014 - by Paul Ellis
Second-placed City gave yet another demonstration of their awesome strike power in midweek, thrashing Championship side Blackburn in an FA Cup third round replay to take their goal tally for the season to 99.
Pellegrini's team are expected to shatter the century barrier this weekend against the Bluebirds at Eastlands, where City have scored 38 times while winning all 10 of their league matches this term.
City's free-scoring form has seen them installed as many experts' tip for the title but Pellegrini, whose side are one point behind leaders Arsenal, is determined to stop his players being distracted by talk of a potentially triumphant campaign.
"I think it is very important for all the players to know that the only important thing for us is to win on Saturday," Pellegrini said.
"It is not useful for us to think what could happen in one month or more months.
"I am absolutely sure that this Premier League will be very close with five or six teams in it until the end, and just one or two points difference, so I am just thinking about this game."
On Sunday, having stemmed a run of three straight defeats by beating Swansea, Manchester United will look to provide further evidence of their backbone at Chelsea.
The 2-0 win enabled United to avenge their FA Cup elimination by the Welsh club a week earlier, but victories for all the teams above them meant they remained 11 points off the pace in the Premier League.
When the sides met in August, drawing 0-0 at Old Trafford, the season was only a week old, but while champions United have floundered since then, Chelsea are riding high in third place ahead of Sunday's encounter.
The London club have already dispatched Manchester City and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge this season and have never lost at home in the league under manager Jose Mourinho, but United midfielder Darren Fletcher is undaunted.
"We are expected to win every game and it doesn't matter if it is Swansea at home or Chelsea away -- it is viewed as a disaster if we don't win," Fletcher said.
"We will treat it like we do with every other game. We will go to win. We know it is a great challenge going to Chelsea, but we can take some confidence from the Swansea game and we are fully confident of going down there and getting more of the same."
Arsenal displayed the sort of nerve required to mount a sustained title challenge when they won 2-1 at Aston Villa on Monday, having seen all of their title rivals win over the previous weekend.
The Gunners welcome struggling Fulham to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday and manager Arsene Wenger has been eager to play down injury concerns surrounding his side.
The Frenchman will be without Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Thomas Vermaelen for the visit of Fulham, while Nacho Monreal and Nicklas Bendtner are doubtful, but he believes he has enough alternatives.
"In midfield we have plenty of quality players who you can rotate easily without really feeling, 'Today we are weaker,'" Wenger said.
"I would say, purely on the football front, it's true that we only have excellent players in every position and that allows you to have different types of teams that can really be efficient."
Liverpool will look to maintain their recent momentum when they host Villa, having responded to successive losses at City and Chelsea over Christmas with back-to-back wins against Hull City and Stoke City.
Reds manager Brendan Rodgers has yet to make any moves in the January transfer window, but with Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge having returned from injury in the 5-3 win at Stoke, he is relaxed about the situation.
"We have been working for a number of months on possibilities which can strengthen the team and we need to see how that goes over the next couple of weeks," he said.
Monday's game sees Spaniard Pepe Mel take charge of his first game as manager of West Bromwich Albion, with high-flying Everton the visitors to The Hawthorns.
Saturday (1500GMT unless otherwise stated)
Arsenal v Fulham, Crystal Palace v Stoke, Liverpool v Aston Villa (1730GMT), Manchester City v Cardiff, Norwich v Hull, Sunderland v Southampton (1245GMT), West Ham v Newcastle
Swansea v Tottenham (1330GMT), Chelsea v Manchester United (1600GMT)
West Brom v Everton