LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has told his players they must believe they can win without Yaya Toure after failing to do so in the four league games he has missed this season.
Toure is currently on international duty with Ivory Coast at the African Nations Cup.
His departure has coincided with City losing to Arsenal and drawing with Everton in their last two Premier League outings.
The only other two league games he has missed this season have ended in draws with Burnley in December and Arsenal earlier in the campaign.
Having cancelled out a substantial deficit to Chelsea, they have since fallen five points adrift of the Premier League summit once more.
With a crunch clash against the leaders to come next weekend, Pellegrini has urged his players to overcome the psychological blow of losing the powerhouse midfielder, who will be unavailable until next month.
"He is very important player for us," the Chilean was quoted as saying by the Guardian. "But, for the moment, we must continue playing and not thinking it is impossible to win without him because I don't think this team depends on just one player."
City, who face an FA Cup fourth-round trip to second-tier Middlesbrough on Saturday, arrive back in Britain after a winter break in Abu Dhabi.
"It was the right time to have a break and we've enjoyed our stay in Abu Dhabi," said Pellegrini.
Middlesbrough are second in the Championship and he is not planning to rest players and risk an upset.
"Of course, there are always opportunities for players to impress and stake a claim for a place but we are playing on Saturday and not in midweek and we will have a full week to recover before we play Chelsea so, with that in mind, I will try and put out the strongest team I can," he said.