Manuel Pellegrini has urged his Manchester City players to repeat their superb Champions League display in the League Cup final.
City produced one of their best performances of the season to beat Dynamo Kiev 3-1 in the Ukrainian capital and put themselves in sight of a place in the quarter-finals for the first time.
Now attention switches to Sunday’s Wembley date with Liverpool – the next match in a critical spell that also includes a Premier League trip to Anfield next Wednesday.
City boss Pellegrini said: “It is another competition now. I think it was very important to try to qualify for the next stage (of the Champions League) and we have made an important step here.
“Now we must try to recover the players that we have as soon as we can. We know we have a difficult game against Liverpool and I hope that by playing similar to the way we played here we can win our first title of the season.”
City should certainly have a spring in their step after a display that banished their recent run of poor form and put the controversy over Sunday’s weakened team at Chelsea in the FA Cup to one side.
They took command early on through Sergio Aguero and David Silva doubled the lead before the break. Dynamo rallied in the second half as Vitaliy Buyalskiy replied and only a brilliant save from Joe Hart denied the same player an equaliser, but City eventually weathered the storm.
Yaya Toure, who earlier missed a gilt-edged chance when he headed wide, secured victory with a fine curling finish in the last minute.
It was another sign of City’s growing maturity in Europe’s elite competition, as also seen with a fine away win at Sevilla during the group stage.
After losing to Barcelona in the first knockout round in the past two seasons, reaching the last eight this time would mark welcome progress in the club’s continued development.
Pellegrini said: “We were very unlucky in both seasons to have to play the best team in the world, but this season we made the first important thing – to win the group. That was an improvement on last season.
“Now we have the chance to arrive to the next stage, the quarter-finals, when you are in the best eight teams of Europe. We need to play another 90 minutes at home and there are a lot of things to continue fighting for, but every year for this team it is important to improve a little bit more.”
Captain Vincent Kompany was also hopeful the team have now got themselves back on track at just the right time after damaging back-to-back Premier League losses to Leicester and Tottenham and Sunday’s FA Cup exit.
“It was a good performance all round from the team. I think the main thing is when you do a good job you get a lot of satisfaction out of it, and you want to hold onto that feeling for as long as possible,” he said.
“The only way for us to do that is carry on the same thing as we did here, whether it is against Liverpool or any other team from now until the end of the season.”