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Iheanacho for Bony the first step in turning Man City's fortunes around

Manchester City have won just one of their past six Premier League games and are in serious danger of missing out on next season's Champions League unless Manuel Pellegrini can turn it around quickly.

Here are five key elements that may prove crucial in determining City's fate this season.

Ditch Wilfried Bony and trust Kelechi Iheanacho

Ever since Bony recovered from calf and shin problems in time for the Capital One Cup final in February, the Ivorian has been Pellegrini's choice as a strike partner for Sergio Aguero or his first alternative from the bench ahead of Nigerian teenager Iheanacho.

Bony had been out for nearly two months, and Iheanacho scored five times from five starts, including a brilliant hat trick in the 4-0 FA Cup fourth-round win at Aston Villa on Jan. 30.

The Wembley final headed into extra time, and Bony came on with 10 minutes remaining while Iheanacho remained on the bench. The former Swansea City striker has started two games and come off the bench twice since then but is still searching for his first goal of the calendar year with alarming misses against Villa in the Premier League and Manchester United in Sunday's derby defeat at the Etihad.

Iheanacho, meanwhile, has played just 68 minutes of City's past six games, while his side have failed to score in four of them.

Pellegrini needs a KDB boost

Kevin De Bruyne injured his knee ligaments in the dying minutes of the Capital One Cup semifinal victory over Everton, and it has proved to be a pivotal moment in City's season. The Belgian's creativity and scoring ability have been sorely missed, with City desperately short of attacking options.

De Bruyne is only second to Aguero for attacking impact with five goals and nine assists this season. City have won just two Premier League games since his injury and have scored more than one goal in the seven games without him just once -- the 4-0 win over rock-bottom Aston Villa.

With David Silva struggling to find his best form because of an ankle problem and Bony, Raheem Sterling and Jesus Navas failing to make much of an impression in recent weeks, Pellegrini will be desperate to have De Bruyne back for the final eight games of the season to give some much-needed creativity.

Call time on Demichelis

Martin Demichelis' Manchester derby horror show must sadly be the end for the veteran defender.

The Argentine was meant to be a stopgap signing by Pellegrini when he joined the club for £4.2m from Atletico Madrid in 2013, but Demichelis has made more than 100 appearances for the club in three campaigns, including 29 so far this season.

He was horribly exposed by the speed and skill of United's teenage striker Marcus Rashford on Sunday. The 18-year-old embarrassed him for the only goal of the game and should have won a penalty after teasing Demichelis into an unnecessary challenge in the box.

The 35-year-old is the oldest player in City's squad, and it's starting to show. Even United boss Louis van Gaal said, "Demichelis looked like the years are catching up with him. He was a very good defender, he was my centre-back in Bayern, but that is the life of football."

City have lost 41 percent of the 17 matches he has started this season and have kept just three clean sheets in the Premier League with him in the side as opposed to nine without him.

Marcus Rashford tormented Martin Demichelis in the Manchester derby as United prevailed 1-0.

He admitted he had packed his bags at the start of the season, expecting to return his former club River Plate. It might be better if he packed them again.

Admit you're in a battle

Pellegrini has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that City are in a battle to finish in the top four, instead concentrating on the title race.

His side were four points above United going into the derby with an opportunity to deliver a killer blow to their neighbours' hopes of finishing in a Champions League spot.

Asked whether a win would be a blow to United's chances of Champions League football, Pellegrini replied: "Psychologically, it will be very important to try to win the title. Nothing more than that. We are just thinking about winning the next game and winning the title."

But even the Chilean must now concede that any hopes of securing a second title before his summer departure are over, with City 15 points behind leaders Leicester City. And the battle for the top four is very much on, with United and West Ham United just a point behind his side.

City are in the worse form of the three clubs, having taken just four points from their past six games -- seven fewer than West Ham and six fewer than United.

Get the fans on side

Pellegrini's City legacy will be shaped by the final two months of his career and whether he can secure Champions League football next season.

The Chilean's first season was incredible, with his side securing a record points haul of 86 points while scoring 102 goals as his side won the title. But since then, the team have gotten progressively worse under his watch. This season they have lost five games at home, which is more than the past four campaigns combined.

Had Pellegrini not announced he was leaving, he would be facing loud calls for him to be sacked. That has at least given him some time and the opportunity to leave on a high. The 62-year-old is often praised for his dignity and class, but his news conferences and postmatch interviews are largely pragmatic and philosophical.

Now is the time for a rallying call to unite supporters -- many of whom are upset by the recent ticket-price announcements for the upcoming Champions League quarterfinal with Paris St-Germain.

If Pellegrini can get the fans behind them, it will go a long way to firing his side to the run they need to finish in the top four.

Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.


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