x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Manuel Pellegrini on pace to score his first trophy at Manchester City

Man City and Sunderland advance to English League Cup semi-finals, while Jose Mourinho denies Chelsea have ‘mental block’.

Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko, left, filled in for the injured Sergio Aguero and scored two goals. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images
Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko, left, filled in for the injured Sergio Aguero and scored two goals. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini wants no let-up as he targets glory on all fronts with his free-scoring side.

Pellegrini has a first trophy firmly in his sights after City eased into the English League Cup semi-finals with a comfortable 3-1 win at Leicester City’s King Power Stadium on Tuesday.

The City manager made eight changes for the match, but the team was still a formidable one and they had little difficulty taking their goal tally for the season to 75.

The performance may have lacked the fluency of last weekend’s 6-3 Premier League thrashing of Arsenal, but it provided evidence of how the whole squad have adapted to Pellegrini’s attacking philosophy.

“It is what we try to do,” he said. “I said some months ago, when I arrived here, that I liked my teams to play in an attacking way, to try to score goals everywhere and the most amount we can.

“It is important to continue that way and it is important to continue improving in defending and the way the team is playing. I don’t know if we are intimidating other teams or not, but it is about trust for our team and we know in every game that we normally score goals. That is very good for the confidence.”

The one baffling aspect of City’s season to date is their poor away form in the Premier League.

While they have won all eight at home, scoring 35 goals in the process, they have lost four on the road. Yet after following up last week’s memorable Champions League win at Bayern Munich and hammering of Arsenal with their League Cup victory, they have momentum ahead of Saturday’s trip to Fulham.

Edin Dzeko struck two of the goals after Aleksandar Kolarov opened the scoring with a fine free kick in the eighth minute.

Pellegrini, famously tasked with winning five trophies in the next five seasons, is just a two-legged semi-final away from Wembley Stadium, while his side are two points off Premier League leaders Arsenal and into the last 16 of the Champions League, although a formidable Barcelona stand in their way.

The only downside for City, fresh from losing top scorer Sergio Aguero to a calf problem that could sideline him for two months, was an injury to defender Pablo Zabaleta.

The Argentine limped out with a hamstring injury to join fellow right-back Micah Richards on the sidelines.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was left mulling a frustrating night on Wearside as his side were dumped out of the League Cup by a Ki Sung-yueng winner in extra time on Tuesday.

Gus Poyet’s Sunderland were on the verge of defeat at the Stadium of Light after goal-line technology was used to give Chelsea the lead through Lee Cattermole’s own goal in the opening minute of the second half. But Fabio Borini equalised in the 88th minute and Ki sent Sunderland into the semi-finals with a cool finish two minutes from the end of extra time.

Mourinho must prepare his charges for Monday’s crucial league trip to Arsenal, but he said his team does not have a mental hang-up about putting teams away.

“I don’t think it’s a mental block because we played very well,” he said. “With a mental block, you don’t play. Every team with mental blocks, they don’t want the ball.

“They feel comfortable without the ball, they feel comfortable defending and not having the responsibility to have the ball.

“This team is very far from a mental block because the team arrives at every stadium, gets the ball and plays and dominates and creates, so it’s not a mental block, for sure. We don’t have this problem.”


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