Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has played down the significance of Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash with Leicester.
The Foxes have defied sceptics throughout the season and travel to Etihad Stadium as the surprise leaders of the Premier League. Leicester hold a three-point lead at the top and have shown no signs of slowing down with the outstanding Jamie Vardy firing them to a superb 2-0 win over Liverpool in midweek.
Claudio Ranieri’s outsiders are now starting to be regarded as genuine title contenders and their meeting with City is being eagerly anticipated, but Pellegrini points out it is not a decisive match.
The Chilean said: “We can win this game or lose this game and it will not finish the Premier League here. After this you still have to play 13 more games, 39 points. There are still a lot of points.
“You cannot think because you win you are the champions. If you lose you still have a lot of things to fight for between now and the end of the season.”
The seeds for Leicester’s dramatic rise were sown in their late charge away from relegation last season. Pellegrini has been impressed and believes they are capable of lasting the course. He added: “I think Leicester started playing very well last season. They won seven of their last nine games. They started playing with high confidence, knowing what they can do.
“This season, maybe at the beginning it was a surprise but now it is not a surprise. They are playing with a very high performance, they have a team that works well together and they have an experienced manager. I think they will be involved in the title race until the end.
“I hope we can win to close the gap and continue fighting.”
Meanwhile, Pellegrini has threatened to field an under-strength City side in their FA Cup fifth-round tie at Chelsea.
Pellegrini says he will field a team of youngsters if the date of the fixture is fixed by the FA on Sunday, February 21.
City are planning to travel to Ukraine the following day ahead of the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Dynamo Kiev on February 24. That in turn comes just four days before the League Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley.