MANCHESTER (AFP) - Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes a run of seven matches in the next 21 days before the next international football break will offer a major test of his team's credentials.
After travelling to Stoke City on Saturday, Pellegrini's side face a Champions League trip to Czech side Viktoria Plzen before the first Manchester derby of the season against United at the Etihad Stadium next Sunday.
Following wins over Newcastle United and Hull City and a defeat by Cardiff, City have collected six points from their opening three matches under Pellegrini, who replaced Roberto Mancini after joining from Malaga in the summer.
The Chilean is enjoying the tough introduction to life in English football and is looking forward to a busy period.
"I think it is a big test for all the big clubs who are playing the Champions League or the Europa League," he said.
"We have seven games in 21 days before the international break in October. That is why we have the squad with 22 players because we have an important amount of games. We will try to do our best performance in each.
"I think for me and the team and the club the pressure must always be the highest pressure to have good performances in every tournament we play, Premier League, Champions League, Capital One (League Cup), for me is always the same. The pressure is positive."
Pellegrini is without a host of players for the game at the Britannia Stadium, with French defender Gael Clichy and Spain winger David Silva the latest to be sidelined.
Clichy has a minor injury, which Pellegrini describes as "not important", while Silva picked up a thigh problem on international duty.
Silva will be assessed next week but Pellegrini is hopeful he will be available to face United at the Etihad Stadium.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart has endured a difficult start to the season, after high-profile errors in England's 3-2 win over Scotland and City's defeat by the same score at Cardiff.
However, he has now kept three consecutive clean sheets and Pellegrini is confident that Hart's good form will continue.
"It is very important for him to have a clean sheet in the last three games he played, two in the national squad and the game here against Hull," said the former Real Madrid coach.
"It is always important for a goalkeeper but I never had doubts about Joe Hart."
In three substitute appearances, Alvaro Negredo has scored twice since joining from Sevilla and there is a clamour for his inclusion ahead of Edin Dzeko in the attack.
Bosnian forward Dzeko has started each of the three Premier League games so far but has been outshone by Spaniard Negredo's appearances from the bench.
"Alvaro Negredo is always a very important option. Edin Dzeko is exactly the same. We have to play seven games in 21 days so the most important thing is not the 11 that start, but the performance of each player in every game," said Pellegrini.
"All the players we have, if they give a high performance, have the option to play. During the games we play we will see which the best 11 to start is. There are a lot of things, physical, technical."