London: 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 and 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 on Friday, around 21 hours before kickoff.
Pellegrini decided to stay away an extra day after being given the option to return on Thursday, but denied that the tight turnaround could cause problems.
“We are not worried about the travelling element. There is only a few hours difference between and we will return to the CFA (City Football Academy) on Friday and prepare for the game as normal," he said on the club website (www.mcfc.co.uk).
"It was the right time to have a break and we`ve enjoyed our stay in Abu Dhabi. Last January we played eight or nine games so it was important to have this time so we can return refreshed."
Middlesbrough are second in the Championship and Pellegrini 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.