Pellegrini marks down Jan 31

It was already billed as a huge clash, a game that would play a vital role in the final destination of the English Premier League title.

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini now thinks his side's trip to Premiership leaders Chelsea will be even more important for them.

City lost ground to the Blues after a 2-0 home defeat by Arsenal yesterday morning (Singapore time) and are now five points adrift.

Chelsea host second-placed City on Jan 31 with Pellegrini aware they have to claw back points on Jose Mourinho's side to have any hopes of retaining the Premier League title.

Pellegrini, who was unable to explain City's dreadful performance, said: "The game we must play at Stamford Bridge is a very important game. We must close the gap to two points.

"I hope we are going to recover and play the way we are playing so far. With the ball, we didn't have clear ideas.

"Chelsea will be a very decisive game. We will try to win that game to close that gap again."

Once again, City missed the presence of Yaya Toure, who is on international duty with Ivory Coast at the Africa Nations Cup.

Pellegrini's side have not won a Premier League game without the midfielder since April last year, but the Chilean claims that did not justify the defeat.

"I think Yaya is a very important player, but I never have excuses," he added.

"We play other games without Yaya and can win also."

- Wire Services.