LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester City cannot afford to drop more points in the Premier League title race but with Yaya Toure back the champions are better placed to defend their crown, manager Manuel Pellegrini said on Friday.
City, without a Premier League home win since New Year’s Day, host Newcastle United at the Etihad in Saturday’s late kick off knowing they could be 10 points behind leaders Chelsea if Jose Mourinho’s side beat Burnley earlier in the day.
“We cannot drop more points but the important thing also is, if we win tomorrow, we will have the same amount of points at the same moment as last season,” Pellegrini told a news conference.
“We can’t think about where Chelsea is – it’s important not to drop points and the only way to do it is to play well.
“I always say Newcastle are a very good team with very good players – it’s not easy to play against them.
“I hope tomorrow we will recover our normal performance at home – we will have to play well with lots of intensity.”
City have won just one game in Toure’s absence but with the influential Ivory Coast midfielder returning after a successful African Nations Cup campaign alongside new signing Wilfried Bony, Pellegrini is delighted to have more options.
“It’s important to have Yaya back, he’s an important player for us — for him and for Bony to come back after winning the Africa Cup of Nations is better,” the Chilean said.
“We are sure Yaya will be the same player as he was before he left. We didn’t win a lot of games without him but there were other problems too.
“We had players coming back from injuries — when you put both together, maybe that explains it.”
Bony, who signed from Swansea City in January for a reported fee of 28 million pounds ($43.05 million), could make his debut but midfielder James Milner is out with a knee injury.
“He (Bony) can play for us and will be in the squad,” Pellegrini said. “We will see if he is in the starting 11. He’s trained well this week without any problems.
“He knows the Premier League and knows our team so there won’t be a problem.”