Pellegrini defends season after big win

LONDON • Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has hit back at critics ahead of his side's Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain tomorrow, insisting they have not had a bad season save for three home defeats.

"If you have all your players 100 per cent fit, and playing all of them together, you win more games," the Chilean said after watching City thrash Bournemouth 4-0 in the league on Saturday.

"That's the way we started the season, winning the first five games.

"I am very happy with the response of the squad because except for those three key home games, it's not a bad season otherwise," he added, referring to losses against Manchester United, Leicester City and Tottenham.

"So with players like Kevin de Bruyne coming back hopefully we can return all our key players together, and I hope we can finish the season the same way we started."

Goals by Fernando, de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Aleksandar Kolarov at Dean Court tightened City's hold on fourth place in the Premier League and boosted confidence ahead of tomorrow's first leg in Paris.

Even without Joe Hart, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Raheem Sterling, City were too good for Bournemouth and Pellegrini took the opportunity to make a point to the doubters.

"We have had a lot of criticism this season but although we have had so many injuries to important players, it is one of the merits of this squad that we are the team that continue to fight in every competition to the end," he said.

"We are the last English team in the Champions League, we won the League Cup, we were forced to go out of the FA Cup because we had several players injured and we prioritised the Premier League and the Champions League."

City reached the last eight of Europe's elite club competition for the first time, where they have been promised a battle.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic bagged a hat-trick as PSG warmed up for Pellegrini's men by beating Nice 4-1 at the Parc des Princes on Saturday.

The Swede took his tally for the season to 30 league goals and David Luiz also scored for PSG, who secured their fourth consecutive Ligue One title with eight matches to spare last month.

Hatem Ben Arfa had earlier found the net for Nice.

"When they play at Champions League level like that, they are very difficult to beat," admitted Nice coach Claude Puel.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2016, with the headline 'Pellegrini defends season after big win'. Print Edition | Subscribe