BIRMINGHAM, November 9 – Manuel Pellegrini had a warning for Manchester City’s Premier League title rivals after the frustration of drawing a blank in a 0-0 draw with bottom of the table Aston Villa.
The goalless stalemate saw leaders City drop two points, although the loss was not as bad as it might have been after second-placed Arsenal missed the chance to leapfrog Pellegrini’s side at the summit after being held to a 1-1 draw in the North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur later Sunday.
Domestic league action is now put on hold for the international break, which City manager Pellegrini believes should aid his side.
Although City saw Wilfried Bony suffer a hamstring injury at Villa Park, they should have several key figures back to bolster their squad after the two-week interval.
“You never know if the international break comes at the right moment or not, but it certainly gives some important players the chance to recover,” said Pellegrini.
“We have finished this part of the season very well. I hope that we return better after the internationals with these important players available,” the Chilean added.
Pellegrini said City would not know the full extent of Bony’s hamstring injury until Monday, although key forward Sergio Aguero is one of those “important players” who are likely to be ready for a return following the international break.
Without both of their recognised strikers, City fired blanks at Villa, although pre-season signings Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne should have done better when given gilt-edged chances in the second half.
“Sometimes these things happen in football,” said Pellegrini. “I am disappointed about the result, but I have nothing to complain (about) to our team.
“They (Villa) had one chance and after that we dominated the game. We were very unlucky in three of four key options that we had.
“We have an injury to our striker (Bony) at the beginning of the game which is important in this kind of game, but we had chances to win it.”
– Garde joy -Meanwhile Remi Garde was understandably happy after his first match as Villa manager ended a dreadful run of seven successive defeats for the Birmingham club that led to the sacking of former boss Tim Sherwood.
“It was a good point for us,” said Garde.
“I am pleased for the players because they have worked hard today and they had worked very well since the beginning of the week,” the former Arsenal and France midfielder added.
“A clean sheet against such a good team, such good players means that we should be a little bit more confident next time. That’s what we were looking for.
“Today was a good occasion to do it. City were full of confidence after a brilliant, brilliant game in Sevilla (Pellegrini’s men won 3-1 in the Champions League in Spain in midweek) which is quite a good team as well.”
Garde added: “We have to believe we will be safe, but it is a tough mission. A point today is a move in the right direction.
“I would have been disappointed not to have got a point, but we were lucky at times.
“To be lucky, you have to work hard, and so we deserved it from that point of view.”