MANCHESTER, December 21- Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes his team are finally performing like champions, even though there is no immediate end in sight to their chronic injury problems in attack.
City made light of the fact they did not have a recognised fit striker in their squad to beat Crystal Palace 3-0 on Saturday and move level on points — for 48 hours at least — with Premier League leaders Chelsea.
David Silva scored twice and Yaya Toure added the third as the pair continued their recent return to peak form and helped City record an eighth consecutive victory in all competitions.
“I’m delighted this squad is demonstrating why we won the title last year,” said Pellegrini.
“I think December is a key month. Maybe it is not the month when you win the title, but you play so many games that if you want to fight for the title, you need to be close to being in the lead.
“We’re having a good moment. Nobody believed two months ago that we would be continuing in the Champions League and involved in the title (race). But we kept trusting what we were doing and kept working every day.”
City’s Christmas period continues when they visit struggling West Bromwich Albion on Friday.
Injured forwards Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic will all be unavailable for that contest, meaning James Milner may have to continue to deputise as an emergency lone striker.
“I don’t think any will be available,” said Pellegrini of his injured strikers.
“Dzeko and Kun (Aguero) I’m sure will not be fit for Boxing Day, but the first half of January. We will see with Jovetic and the way he improves from now until January.”
– ‘Disgraceful decision’ –
However, with Silva and Toure in such fine form, City should have few problems with an upcoming schedule that sees them take on not only West Brom, but also Burnley and Sunderland.
“Yaya was very criticised at the beginning of the season, but it was not only Yaya who was not performing at his best,” said Pellegrini.
“I said that when our midfielders — (Samir) Nasri, Yaya, Fernandinho — returned to their normal performances, we would return to the way we normally play.
“All of them are playing regularly at the moment. David has come in from a long injury on his knee and is returning to the way he knows how to play.
“I say the same thing about David that I say about Sergio Aguero. This team always needs Sergio Aguero to play because he is a very important player, but I don’t think this team is only Sergio Aguero. David Silva is exactly the same.
“These players make a difference, but if for any reason they can’t play, we still have a team who know how to do it. Other players have their moments and are giving important answers, in the way David did today (Saturday).”
Palace were ultimately well beaten, but visiting manager Neil Warnock was understandably irritated that his midfielder James McArthur had a header incorrectly ruled out for offside when his side were trailing 2-0.
“It was miles onside,” said Warnock, who felt the referee’s assistant who made the call had been at fault.
“He’s in a bad position and it’s a disgraceful decision. I’m sure he will be sorry, but at this level you have to get those decisions right. My players deserved better.”