EPL: Manchester City will have edge over fatigued Liverpool, says Manuel Pellegrini
Manchester City have will have the edge over Liverpool when the sides meet at Anfield because of the Merseysiders` gruelling Europa League efforts, manager Manuel Pellegrini said on Friday.
Liverpool were dumped out of Europe`s second-tier competition in a penalty shootout defeat to Turkish side Besiktas on Thursday and arrived back in England just 55 hours before Sunday`s clash.
City also played in Europe this week, but their Champions League last-16 home defeat by Barcelona came two days earlier, leaving them extra time to recover and prepare for the weekend`s match.
"I have been involved in the Europa League and this preparation is never ideal," Pellegrini told reporters.
"You can`t prepare for the game. You finish on Thursday night and the players don`t have the 48 hours to recover.
"It`s an advantage for the other team, but we just can`t think we are going to win for this reason. It is also about the performance."
Whereas the same fixture last season was billed as a potential title decider, Liverpool`s poor start to this campaign has left them far off the pace and looking to secure a top-four finish rather than challenging for the big prize.
For City, however, it remains a crucial game.
Pellegrini`s side are five points behind leaders Chelsea, but have an opportunity to close the gap with Jose Mourinho`s side missing the weekend`s Premier League action in order to face Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday`s League Cup final.
This adds extra significance to the Anfield clash, according to Pellegrini.
"It`s important to close the gap, not just psychologically but mathematically," he said.
"It was the same for us last season. It`s about the pressure of winning the games in hand. We need to continue fighting to the end to retain our title.
"We will be going there to try to win the game and be the most aggressive team."
City will welcome midfielder Yaya Toure back into the side after he missed Tuesday`s defeat by Barcelona through suspension when his importance to Pellegrini`s team was clear as the La Liga side won 2-1 to take the upper hand in the tie.
Toure`s absence at the African Nations Cup throughout January hit City`s title challenge hard and his return against Newcastle United last weekend was the catalyst for a 5-0 thrashing.