Manuel Pellegrini has backed rival manager Jose Mourinho to turn his season around and get Chelsea back into the title race.
Chelsea boss Mourinho is under considerable pressure after a poor start to the season in which the champions have lost five of their opening 10 Barclays Premier League games.
The support of Pellegrini may come as a surprise, given the apparent enmity between the pair in the past, but the Manchester City boss expects the man who has called him ‘Pellegrino’ to bounce back strongly.
Pellegrini said: “All managers have a moment in their career, in their season, a bad moment – it’s normal.
“So I hope, because he’s a very important manager, that he will arrange his team. I think he’s already demonstrated what he can do – he’s the champion of the Premier League this year.
“I always say mathematics show when you can do it and when you can’t and we still have enough points to play for. I am sure they will be involved in the title (race) for the first position. I am sure they will continue to be a very strong team.
“They are not in their best moment but I am sure they will improve.”
The perceived animosity between Pellegrini and Mourinho dates back to when the latter succeeded the former as Real Madrid boss in 2010 and later derided the Chilean’s subsequent move to Malaga.
“If they get rid of me, I won’t be going to coach Malaga,” Mourinho said. “I will go to a big club in the Premier League or Serie A.”
The pair have regularly jousted verbally since and not always shook hands after games.
While Mourinho has referred to his rival as ‘Pellegrino’ and hit out over comments about referees, the City boss has compared Chelsea unflatteringly to Stoke.
But Pellegrini expressed no schadenfreude when the subject of Chelsea’s current plight was raised at his latest press conference.
After winning the title in 2014 and then failing to mount a strong defence the following season, Pellegrini knows some of the difficulties Mourinho is presently experiencing.
He said: “Maybe some (players) relax. You don’t want it to happen, but it normally does. It’s difficult to repeat it.
“And all the other teams who couldn’t win it last season become stronger because they don’t want to be two years without winning silverware. You have five very strong teams here in England and they can all win the title.”