Pellegrini can lead City to more glory
Don't rule out more glory for Pellegrini and his men
(Philippe Coutinho 83)
MAN CITY 1
l After extra time, Man City win 3-1 on penalties
There is fire left in the belly of Manchester City after all.
Three defeats in a row, including back-to-back Premiership losses to title rivals Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur, could have easily drained them of their will.
Yet, they now appear all ready for a spirited final push.
Yesterday morning (Singapore time), they overcame a determined Liverpool side in the League Cup final with a tenacious performance, winning via a penalty shoot-out after the match had ended 1-1 in normal and extra-time.
This win came hot on the heels of a convincing 3-1 away triumph over Dynamo Kiev in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash last Wednesday.
As players and manager celebrated their victory in unbridled joy on the Wembley turf yesterday morning, they sent a message loud and clear.
Pep Guardiola may be taking over the team next season but City's millionaire footballers are giving Manuel Pellegrini everything they have got until then.
They've got his back, just like how the Chilean had Willy Caballero's.
The 62-year-old former Real Madrid coach isn't one to shy away from making unpopular, tough choices.
Caballero, who has played every League Cup game for City this season, was heavily criticised for his display when City lost 5-1 to Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round a week earlier.
It led to suggestions that first-choice custodian Joe Hart should be reinstated for the final.
But Pellegrini would rather "lose a title than lose my word", as he said later.
Caballero repaid the faith with his heroics in the shoot-out, saving three out of Liverpool's four penalties.
Pellegrini himself bore the brunt of the FA Cup backlash for fielding the weakened team that were thrashed by the Blues.
He was determined not to subject his players to three matches in a week.
Now, with the League Cup in the bag and one foot in their first-ever Champions League quarter-finals, it's looking more and more like a well-calculated gamble.
Yesterday morning's Wembley triumph may just be the lubricant to reinvigorate a slick attacking machine that will continue the fight on another two fronts.
European glory may be a long shot, with Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona continuing to look a class above the competition.
Yet, none of them will fancy drawing a City side brimming with stars such as Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Kevin de Bruyne (who is said to be ahead of schedule in his return from a knee ligament injury) either.
City should not be written off in the English Premiership title race, too.
Win their game in hand over leaders Leicester City and they will find themselves just six points adrift.
They will be encouraged by their strong finishes in their two previous campaigns.
They rounded off the 2013/14 season with a five-match winning run and, last term, they finished with six victories on the trot.
Squeaky bum time has arrived.
And City seem to be peaking at the right time.
I would prefer to lose a title than lose my word. My word is more important than football... Maybe most of the media were waiting for him to make a mistake and criticise my decision, but I promised he would play in both cups. I never lost trust in him because I know how good a player he is.
— Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini explains his decision to field second-choice goalkeeper Willy Caballero
We have to play for another 36 points (in the league) so we are not going to give up. We made a huge step for the Champions League and winning this title gives us a lot of trust. I’m very happy, not because it is my final season, I’m happy for a lot of things.
— Pellegrini says the impending arrival of Pep Guardiola makes no difference to his desire to win as many trophies as possible