MANCHESTER, England — Manchester City remain involved in four competitions after an excellent 2-0 win over Chelsea saw them move into the FA Cup quarter-finals, a result which ensures Manuel Pellegrini's record against Jose Mourinho has finally improved.
Their head-to-head record going into the match was overwhelmingly in Mourinho's favour, winning seven and drawing one in the nine games they've played against one another.
This was a significant result in terms of City's season but also for Pellegrini. He will surely be relishing a win over the man who has consistently tried to derail City with his comments to the media in recent weeks.
The 1-0 defeat Chelsea inflicted on City two weeks ago was very much fresh in City's memory, but whereas they were second best in the centre of midfield that night, the return of Javi Garcia swung that battle in their favour this time around. He was excellent alongside Yaya Toure, and Nemanja Matic, who had dominated proceedings in the previous encounter, was left chasing shadows for much of the game.
Garcia is a player who has faced a lot of criticism since his move to City in the summer of 2012, yet his steady improvement this season has now seen him establish himself as a very useful player in their squad.
Eden Hazard was the star of Chelsea's league win at the Etihad, when he produced arguably the finest individual performance this season with a masterclass in dribbling and technique, but City combated that threat this time around by playing James Milner and Pablo Zabaleta together down the right-hand side.
They nullified the threat of the Belgian, who in terms of close control and ability to beat a man is right up there with the very best in world football. He can run with the ball at pace and sidestep players with ease, and shackling him was a key element of City's win.
The performances of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott were also vitally important. In City's title-winning season of 2011-12 they were outstanding throughout, but the decline of Lescott and the emergence of Matija Nastasic last season saw the partnership broken up. Today was a stark reminder that they complement each other well and can perform effectively in tandem.
Lescott will never be a Pellegrini favourite given his lack of ability with the ball at his feet, but between now and the end of the season, with City struggling somewhat at the heart of defence, he could well have a significant role to play before his inevitable summer departure.
Stevan Jovetic opened the scoring and looked impressive before making way on the hour mark. He's had a frustrating start to life as a City player, with a series of injuries halting his progress, but he's back fit and beginning to establish himself in the side.
He's a live-wire player, constantly looking to create, with great vision and intelligence that sees him cause panic when in possession. He has a great appreciation of those around him, often dropping deep to receive the ball before turning quickly and running at pace towards the opposition 18-yard box.
The only black spot on his performance was his attempt to get David Luis sent off with a crude dive that was embarrassing to watch. But with Sergio Aguero almost certain to miss Tuesday's Champions League last 16 game with Barcelona, Jovetic may well find himself in the starting XI once again.
Arguably the biggest plus for City was the return of Samir Nasri, who has been absent since suffering medial knee ligament damage in the match at Newcastle in January. He has been a huge loss in the intervening period, but quickly reasserted himself in this match, scoring a wonderfully worked goal shortly after being introduced as a substitute.
He picked the ball, ran at the heart of the Chelsea defence and played a lovely one-two with the imperious David Silva before slotting home from close range. With the Barcelona game just around the corner, his return is a timely one.
There's a temptation in the media to build up the hype around certain games, but City's two matches this week didn't need that. They've come through the first and remain in the FA Cup. Their next one against Barcelona is even more crucial, and is likely to be even more difficult.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.
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