LONDON • Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes tiredness was behind their 3-0 defeat by Liverpool on Wednesday after a third successive Premier League loss put a hefty dent in their faltering title hopes.
The City manager pinpointed fatigue for their lacklustre display at Anfield, which followed losses to leaders Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur, and left them 10 points off the top with 11 games remaining in their season.
City had played a gruelling 120 minutes against Liverpool before winning a penalty shoot-out in the League Cup final on Sunday and travelled to Ukraine to play Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League last week.
"It is difficult to have an excuse but I saw the team were not recovered from the last week," Pellegrini told the BBC after another poor domestic result on the road for his side, who have won just two of their past 10 away games in the league.
"We played Champions League and then League Cup final and I saw the team were not fresh and Liverpool played better.
Manchester City have taken three points from 33 against the current top eight teams this Premier League season.
James Milner has never been on the losing side in each of the 41 league games that he scored.
City have lost three straight league games for the first time since November 2008.
"We didn't attack well and create chances and didn't have fresh legs to play like we can."
The visitors managed only four shots during the entire game and the closest they came to a goal was a Sergio Aguero header that former team-mate James Milner blocked on the goal-line. In contrast, Liverpool found the target seven times from 11 shots.
Former Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling was barely a factor in the game, making just 33 touches - none of which was in the box. He was replaced by striker Wilfried Bony at half-time, but the Ivorian was equally ineffective.
The Reds already had a two-goal lead going into the interval, with goals from Adam Lallana and Milner. They added to their advantage through Roberto Firmino after the break.
It was a small measure of revenge for Sunday's Wembley result for Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp, whose side have now completed an emphatic league double over City. They won 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium earlier in the season.
"The best word I could say that would describe this was... 'boom!'," the German told BT Sport.
"Wow. What was this? It was really good to be honest. It showed us what these boys are capable of and it was a really good performance."
The result lifted Liverpool up to eighth in the table, but they remain six points shy of fourth-placed City in the hunt for a Champions League qualification place.
Pellegrini admitted that a victory against Aston Villa on Saturday is now absolutely vital if his side, now level on points with fifth-placed Manchester United and 10 points behind leaders Leicester, are to get back on track.
"I'm not thinking about the title or thinking about qualifying for the Champions League, it's important to think about the next game," he said.
"We need to win at home because we have lost our last three games in the Premier League so that is the most important thing."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE