• Premier League

Pellegrini labels Chelsea a 'little rich horse'

ESPN staff
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Manuel Pellegrini has hit back at Jose Mourinho by accusing the Chelsea manager of trying to dodge responsibility in claiming his big-spending side are the underdogs in the battle to win the Premier League.

The Manchester City manager prefers to avoid discussing his counterparts at other clubs but broke his vow of silence after Mourinho, whose Chelsea won 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Monday, described his team as "a little horse" competing against "two big horses" - in City and Arsenal - in the title race.

But Pellegrini said Chelsea's level of expenditure - whether in the last six weeks, 12 months or 10 years - makes them the favourites and means Mourinho should not try and present his side as outsiders.

And he pointed out that Chelsea, who recruited Nemanja Matic, Mohamed Salah and Kurt Zouma in January, spent the most money in the winter transfer window - although Mourinho also sold Juan Mata and Kevin de Bruyne.

Pellegrini said: "Maybe it is a small horse if the manager thinks like that. It can be a little horse but very rich. This is the team that spends most money in the last 10 years, it is the team that spends most money this year and the team that spends the most money in the transfer window so [it is] little but rich."

City out-spent Chelsea in the summer window of 2013 but Pellegrini argued that the Londoners paid more in transfer fees over the 12-month period, as well as in a decade of Roman Abramovich's ownership.

Pellegrini accused Mourinho of trying to take the credit if Chelsea do win the title but attempting to escape the blame if they don't.

He added: "I think he is favourite but he thinks if he wins he will have the merits but if he loses he does not have responsibility. It is the way he acts. Everyone acts the way he thinks is better for his team."

And Pellegrini insisted that, while Mourinho has claimed it is a transitional year for Chelsea, he could also argue City should not be expected to win trophies this season but opted not to take that approach.

"It is very easy for me to say it is my first year in the Premier League, I am just getting to know the players so we don't have to expect anything in this year, but I don't think it is the way. I think we are working every day to try and do our best. We will see what we can do in all the competitions," he said.

Pellegrini meanwhile says it will be "difficult" for Fernandinho to be fit for City's Champions League clash with Barcelona and that although Sergio Aguero will definitely be out, he expects Samir Nasri to be available.

Pellegrini stressed there was no chance that top scorer Aguero would recover from a hamstring strain in time to face the Spanish champions at the Etihad Stadium on February 18.

"He is working with the physio," he added. "He has started running, but he will not be ready for Barcelona."

Midfielder Fernandinho sustained a muscle strain in training on Sunday and sat out Monday's 1-0 defeat to Chelsea.

Although Fernandinho tweeted on Thursday that he was optimistic he would be back within 15 days, Pellegrini said he would be surprised if he featured in the first leg of the last 16 tie.

"It is difficult," he said. "We will see in the next week. Fernandinho is working with the physio. Maybe he will be at least 15 days more."

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