Pellegrini hails City's fighting spirit

City's Nigerian forward Kelechi Iheanacho getting the better of Norwich's Scottish midfielder Graham Dorrans in their FA Cup tie. Iheanacho netted the second goal after a stylish strike from Spaniard Sergio Aguero and Belgium's Kevin de Bruyne comple
City's Nigerian forward Kelechi Iheanacho getting the better of Norwich's Scottish midfielder Graham Dorrans in their FA Cup tie. Iheanacho netted the second goal after a stylish strike from Spaniard Sergio Aguero and Belgium's Kevin de Bruyne completed the scoring in the comprehensive 3-0 win.PHOTO: REUTERS

Winning four titles this term will be tough but boss wants team to focus on one game at a time

LONDON • Manuel Pellegrini believes Manchester City's 3-0 stroll against Norwich in the FA Cup third round proved they have a burning desire to achieve the quadruple this season.

His side remain on course for success in the FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League and Premier League after Saturday's emphatic victory at Carrow Road.

A sublime strike from Sergio Aguero opened accounts, before Kelechi Iheanacho and Kevin de Bruyne completed the scoring to underline City's progress.

"If you want to have a winning mentality and an ambitious mentality, then you must be involved in all the competitions until the end," Pellegrini said after making seven changes to the starting line-up who faced Everton in the League Cup semi-final first leg, and again leaving first-choice goalkeeper Joe Hart on the bench.

"This is just the first step in the FA Cup and we know it's a beautiful competition. But we are thinking about beating Everton (at home in the Premier League) on Wednesday, and not about what will happen in the future.

"We're in the semi-finals of the League Cup, three points off the lead of the Premier League, we're in the last 16 of the Champions League and we've started with the right foot in the FA Cup.

"Winning all four would be very difficult because we have to play so many games, so really we have to just focus game by game, whatever competition we are playing in."

What is not up for discussion is how important Aguero and his fitness is to City's quadruple hopes.

Even by the Argentina forward's standards, his opener was special. He picked up the ball 40 metres from goal following Raheem Sterling's back-heel, burst past Graham Dorrans and Sebastien Bassong, jinked away from Russell Martin and slotted past John Ruddy with ease.

"As Kun (Aguero) plays more minutes, his performance will always improve when he comes back from a long injury," added Pellegrini, who was without the Argentinian for the first three weeks of December due to injury.

"Maybe the first game he didn't play so well. In midweek he made a lot of better moments, and at Norwich he kept doing that and scored a beautiful goal.

"When you have players as important as Sergio, he is important for his team-mates, for the manager, for the fans to see him playing in every game - because he is a player that can make the difference. But for me the most important thing we are doing this season so far is that without Sergio in a lot of games and other important players, we have stayed in all the competitions."

Pellegrini hopes to have Yaya Toure, Fernandinho and David Silva back for Wednesday's visit of Everton.

As for Norwich, their season will be defined by their battle to extend their latest Premier League stay beyond one season and manager Alex Neil is aware of that fact, ahead of a crucial week for the Canaries.

"I could have put my strongest team out here and we go and lose against one of the best teams in the league, and then they come to the midweek game at Stoke and they're a bit fatigued and we lose that," he said. "Then we've got a huge game at Bournemouth on Saturday and they are still a bit fatigued for that as well, you're just making your own problems."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2016, with the headline 'Pellegrini hails City's fighting spirit'. Print Edition | Subscribe