Swansea, United Kingdom – Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes that his side's profitable December has set them up to regain the Premier League title in 2014.
City won six of their seven league games in December, only dropping points in a draw at Southampton, and are now just a point off leaders Arsenal heading into their first game of 2014 at Swansea City on Wednesday.
The 2012 champions were eighth in the table at one point in November and looking in danger of being cut adrift by their title rivals, only to recover the deficit.
“I think it was a fantastic month for us,” Pellegrini said.
“In the Premier League, from the last seven we won six. It was very important for us to recover points. Arsenal were six points ahead of us so it is very important to finish the year in the position we wanted to be.
“To recover six points in a month is not easy. We continue in the Capital One (League) Cup and Champions League also, so I think the first six months of the year (season) was very good for us. Now in the second half we try to continue winning.”
Goalkeeper Joe Hart suffered a nasty cut below his eye in City's 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, but he will be fit to face Swansea after having six stitches in the wound.
Hart has been in good form since returning to Pellegrini's starting line-up in the Premier League after a period on the bench following a number of high-profile errors early in the season.
“Joe Hart has a cut beneath his eye, but nothing important,” explained Pellegrini. “It is not dangerous and he can play without any risk.
“I hope of course he will be at his best. Everyone knows why Joe Hart is the first goalkeeper here in England. He played two or three years in a very high performance. He can do it and we hope he will continue in the same way.”
Pablo Zabaleta, Yaya Toure and Alvaro Negredo are all set to return to City's starting line-up after being rested for the game with Palace, which came soon after their Boxing Day win over Liverpool.
“Pablo played against Liverpool on Boxing Day to the limit,” said Pellegrini.
“It was a risk to have a massive injury and too near for him to play two games in 44 hours. Toure and Negredo were a little tired and will be fresh for Swansea.”
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup is hoping for improvements from his side in the second half of the season after failing to reach his points target for the half-way stage.
The Swans have also had to contend with an energy-sapping Europa League campaign, which has taken its toll on a squad that finished ninth last season.
“I thought we could (reach the) turn on 23 points, so we are a couple short of where I expected to be,” said Laudrup, whose side amassed 21 points in their first 19 games.
“But I think we can do better in the second half of the season and we can end up more or less where we did last year. I said before the season that our target is to consolidate the club as a mid-table team.
“If we can do that this season, which has been so complicated with all the European games as well, it would be for me a big success.”
The south Wales club are only five points above the bottom three, but Laudrup believes that there are 11 teams at risk of relegation.
“We cannot think we are outside the 11 teams and say this is not about us,” he said.
“That would be very, very arrogant to say as a team who have only been in the Premier League for two and a half seasons, and I am not arrogant.” – Sapa-AFP