Manuel Pellegrini Finally Receiving Acclaim as Man City Close In on Title

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Manuel Pellegrini Finally Receiving Acclaim as Man City Close In on Title
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Dignified and respectful: Manuel Pellegrini's persona may not be to the liking of newspaper journalists who want ready-made headlines after press conferences to make their job easier, but it seems the impressive football he has brought to Manchester City is finally earning him respect from the wider football community.

Pellegrini stands on the brink of a Premier League and League Cup double in his first season in English football, yet up until recently his achievements have gone almost unnoticed. Even in December and January, when City were on a 20-match unbeaten run and scoring an unfathomable amount of goals, the media focus tended to be on other sides.

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Arsenal, who led the way for much of the first half of the season, were the media darlings then, before Jose Mourinho's Chelsea were suddenly the focus of attention upon becoming the first side to beat City in the league at the Etihad in February.

Then, of course, the romanticism of Liverpool's "story" gripped every major newspaper and television station, at one stage threatening to become the dominant national news story not just confined to the back pages.

Meanwhile, City, led by their quiet and for the most part courteous manager, have gone under the radar, a situation that appears to have suited them given their late surge to the summit of the table. They've spent just 11 days in top spot all season, yet it is they who look set to be there on Sunday when it really matters.

They have timed their run to perfection, tucked in behind the leaders before making one last sprint out in front, and even Pellegrini, so often reluctant to make any bold claims, had the air of a man confident his side can deliver the title when he spoke to the press after the win over Aston Villa last night.

"Now we can talk about the title because if we win the next game we are going to win the title", Pellegrini said. "I think we have a style of play, I think we are an attractive team, I think we score many goals and we are always thinking to score more goals. That to me has the same importance as winning the title."

He went on to say he now "expects" City to be crowned champions: "Of course I expect to win the title because now we are top of the table. It is the last game, and win the next game and we can win the title."

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City have scored 100 league goals and need four goals in their final match to beat Chelsea's record haul of 103 in the 2009-10 season under Carlo Ancelotti, a manager who, much like Pellegrini, values an attacking style and encourages goals from his team.

Although the Chilean's tactical inflexibility may have cost his side on a few occasions, most notably in the league defeat at Anfield, his commitment to an open style should have gained him respect earlier than it has.

And if Sergio Aguero, who has 17 goals in just 19 league appearances, had featured in more games, it's fair to say City would have been comfortable winners. As it is, it's going down to the last day, and although West Ham should not be taken lightly, the ruthless, professional way the Blues have gone about their last four matches suggests they won't fail to deliver.

Meanwhile, Vincent Kompany, a player who has become synonymous with the club's recent success, believes his side must go on the offensive one last time in the final game at home to West Ham on Sunday to ensure the title returns to the Blue half of Manchester.

"I hope for the best for our team. But everything in time", he said. "We have three daysstay calm, rest and recover for what should be the most important game of the season.

"The main thing you have to carry with you in football, in every game, is beliefbelief anything can happen. We did that. We have put ourselves in a position again where it is in our hands, but I am sure Liverpool players and fans will still hope as well. Therefore we just need to do our job."

There's a belief and determination running through this side, evident as the players celebrated their impressive victory over Villa. Stranger things have happened, but it seems almost certain Pellegrini will win his first title as a manager in Europe in three days' time. Few could argue he doesn't deserve it.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand.

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: @RobPollard_.

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