City boss Manuel Pellegrini plays down significance of Leicester clash
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has played down the significance of this weekend's top-of-the-table clash with Leicester.
The Foxes have defied sceptics throughout the season and travel to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday as the surprise leaders of the Barclays 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.
Pellegrini 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.
The Chilean said: "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 with Leicester and other teams to see who will win the title this year."
City have lost winger Jesus Navas ahead of the clash. The Spaniard faces a minimum of three weeks out with a hamstring injury suffered in the midweek win at Sunderland.
Captain Vincent Kompany (calf) is making encouraging progress but is not yet fit to return. Defender Eliaquim Mangala (hamstring), midfielders Kevin De Bruyne (knee/ankle) and Samir Nasri (thigh), plus striker Wilfried Bony (shin), remain on the sidelines.
Victory against Manchester City would confirm Leicester as serious Barclays Premier League title contenders, but Foxes boss Ranieri will not be making such bold statements whatever the result on Saturday.
"Even if we win, and we try to win, then we can lose with Arsenal," Ranieri said.
"It is difficult to say this (that Leicester can win the title). We want our fans to dream but we know it's a tough match and from now there will only be tough matches.
"We must continue in this way. I tell my players we make 39 points in the first half (of the season) so I want 40 points from the second half - one more.
"We have to take two points every match between now and the end of the season to arrive at 79 points. I don't know if it is good enough to win (the league), but I want to improve.
"If we don't improve, we still make a fantastic season but we slow down.
"We believe in the next match. We believe we are working well. We believe sooner or later we lose but nothing must happen."
Ranieri has been asked on countless occasions over the past few months whether he believes Leicester can win the Premier League and he has played it down every time.
Asked if he had told his players that he believes they can lift the title, the affable Italian said: "You want to know if I told something to my players?! Ha ha ha. This is a secret.
"It's a battle now - Manchester City and then Arsenal. We have to make sure we just keep working and running and running.
"I hope we don't feel the pressure because it's the first time we have been here."
Ranieri will assess the fitness of recent signing Daniel Amartey before deciding if he will be involved for the first time in the top-of-the-table clash.
Only Matty James (knee) and Jeff Schlupp (hamstring) will definitely be absent for the trip to Manchester.