Winter rush leaves Pellegrini cold
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is not impressed by English football's packed Christmas fixture schedule.
Pellegrini, in his first season in the Barclays Premier League, is frustrated that his team must play on Boxing Day and again on December 28.
Those matches, against Liverpool and Crystal Palace respectively and both at home, come amid a run of four games in 12 days starting at Fulham on Saturday.
The Chilean accepts such a busy festive programme is traditional in England but he concedes he is a fan of the winter breaks they have in other leagues where he has worked.
He said: "We are always changing every match - the rotation of the squad is very important.
"We have to play 26th and 28th, less than 48 hours. It is incredible that the games are so near.
"I think that to play two games in less than 72 hours is not a good thing, the players are not recovered in less than 72 hours normally.
"Playing after 40 hours, I think, is a very bad thing. It is a lot of games and in this case we are not in the best situation."
When asked if he would like to see anything changed, Pellegrini said: "I don't know because it is very important, here in the Premier League, all these days like Boxing Day.
"But all the other countries stop and I think it is very important for the players to have a winter break because they play too much, too many games
"But the rules are the rules and always the Premier League has been the same, so we must play."
The absence of Zabaleta, who suffered a hamstring injury during the Capital One Cup quarter-final win at Leicester on Tuesday, gives City a problem at right-back with Richard already out.
Zabaleta is only expected to be out for a week or two but Pellegrini must consider deploying a central defender, a midfielder or one of his two left-backs in an unfamiliar position during this testing run.
Pellegrini said: "We don't have a right-back so will see who will play there.
"We can play (Gael) Clichy, we can play (Aleksandar) Kolarov, we can play (Dedryck) Boyata, (James) Milner, so we will see who is the best option."
City are still unsure how long they will be without top scorer Aguero, who limped off with a calf injury during last week's 6-3 thrashing of Arsenal.
Pellegrini said: "That injury is normally from four to eight weeks.
"It can be eight, can be four. We will see in the way his work is. He is improving every day.
"Of course, I am confident he will come back as soon as he can."
Edin Dzeko, after scoring twice at Leicester, will hope to continue in place of 19-goal Aguero, although it remains to be seen if he can form an effective partnership with Alvaro Negredo.
Jovetic, City's fourth striker, is again unavailable this weekend due to illness.
Pellegrini said: "If it cannot be with Sergio in the team, we have other good players also.
"I hope we can continue playing the same way with different names."
The trip to Craven Cottage gives City another chance to address the conundrum of their away form.
City, three points off the top, have lost four of their eight away league games but recent performances - across all competitions - at West Brom, Bayern Munich and Leicester offer encouragement.
Pellegrini said: "Our first games playing away were not the scores we deserve.
"It is very important for this team to win away.
"We won the three games playing away in the Champions League, two in the Capital One Cup and in the last two in Premier League games we drew and we won, so I hope we continue the same way."
Pellegrini expects a strong challenge from a Fulham side finding a new direction under Rene Meulensteen.
He said: "For different reasons, it is always very difficult to play all games in the Premier League.
"Our mentality must be of thinking we always have a strong team in front of us."
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