Manuel Pellegrini’s English might still lack some of the fluency of Manchester City’s football but he is already well acquainted with one of the Premier League’s favourite phrases. “Mind games?” he said. “I don’t think important managers can give any importance to those mind games. I don’t know if you think managers who seem to play mind games are more intelligent? I don’t think so.”
No prizes for guessing the context of Pellegrini’s remarks. Chelsea’s shock defeat by Crystal Palace had prompted Jose Mourinho to claim that his team were now out of the Premier League title race. Chelsea, of course, actually lead title favourites City by two points, albeit having played two more games, and news of Mourinho’s latest analysis caused Pellegrini’s veneer of relaxed satisfaction to turn into a look of exasperation. Or perhaps just boredom.
“I don’t know the way he thinks,” said Pellegrini. “My way of thinking is that the four teams have the same options to win the title. We have to win those six points [from the games in hand]. We don’t have six points more, we have two games postponed.”
Samir Nasri was equally unconvinced. “Do I believe him? No, not at all. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a good tactician. The title is not over for them. They will fight until the end.”