Manuel Pellegrini says Liverpool blew their chance of winning the title last season because they could not handle the pressure of being top of the league.
Brendan Rodgers’s team beat Manchester City 3-2 at Anfield on 13 April to give them a seven-point lead over City with four matches left, although City had two games in hand. After Liverpool lost and drew one of their remaining games and City dropped only one point from the last available 18, Pellegrini’s team were crowned champions.
With Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on Monday in an early-season showdown, Pellegrini said their inability to deal with the pressure of leading cost them the title.
“I was not surprised [we triumphed] because I was absolutely convinced when I said the words that I said: ‘Careful, it’s not finished.’ Because they have to play five games more [actually four], and the pressure when you are at the top of the table is increasing after every game.
“The most important thing for us was not to think about Liverpool but think about what we had to do and we had to win the five games and we did. That’s why it was not a surprise. The surprise was that we lost the game 3-2 because we played better.
“I can’t talk about what happened with Liverpool at that moment but from my experience when you are finishing the season the pressure increases every week for every team, not only for Liverpool. That’s why I was absolutely sure they weren’t going to win the [four] games that they had to play. It was so important that our team did it.”
Asked if City had been given enough credit for winning the league after much of the focus had been on Liverpool, Pellegrini said: “I don’t know about that. The most important thing for us is to be the champions. Everyone says it’s a very difficult league and every team can beat any other team every weekend.”
Pellegrini is unsure how Liverpool’s collapse will affect them. “I cannot know what happened inside Liverpool or if they will be affected by last season. I repeat that my way of thinking is that last season is finished. For our team it is finished. I suppose that also for Liverpool it is finished.”
The effect of Luis Suárez’s departure is also difficult to predict. “It’s difficult to answer after one game but maybe they will always miss Luis Suárez because he is a very important player,” Pellegrini said, “but they have bought a lot of important new players.
“I always say to the players that games are games of six points, especially when you play at home with the most important squads of the Premier League such as Liverpool or Arsenal or Chelsea.
“We are just starting the season and maybe we don’t have our whole squad in the best fitness but I think this week we worked very hard and very well..
“We hope to win our three points here at home. We are just starting this season. Last season for us is finished. We are not thinking any more about what happened last season. Different games, different moments but it is very important to start winning our points at home.”
“We played very well the first 35, 45 minutes, in all senses technically and physically we didn’t have any problems,” said Pellegrini of the display.
“We defend very well. Maybe in the second half we could not continue with the same pace. That is why it is so important we work this week, seven days more. We have 13 players who are in pre-season, five players who work less than less 26 days and the other 16 days.”