West Brom vs Manchester City: Manchester City can equal club record with Boxing Day victory

Manuel Pellegrini's side would take their run to nine victories with a win at the Hawthorns

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The Independent Online

Manchester City can equal a club record of nine consecutive victories with success at West Brom on Boxing Day.

City have hit form in the past month, with their sequence of eight straight wins carrying them into the Champions League's last 16 and cutting into Chelsea's lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

They trail Chelsea by just three points heading into the Christmas league fixtures having - briefly - been as many as nine behind at one stage last month.

Chelsea have responded to the champions' reinvigorated challenge by winning their last two but, after enduring an indifferent spell in October and November, City clearly have momentum.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini said: "We are playing now with the intensity and in style of play we always do. Again we have players in high level of performance and good moments.

"We are trusting in what we do so, in the same way maybe we played in a poor way two months ago, we are doing very well."

Victory at The Hawthorns will see City match a feat of winning nine in succession that they have only achieved twice before.

The first time was in the old Division Two between December 1909 and February 1910, with the second their much more recent hot streak of autumn 2011.

The latter sequence, when City truly asserted themselves in what was to prove their first Premier League title-winning season, most memorably included their 6-1 destruction of Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Last season they did win 18 out of 20 games across December and January but the most they won in succession was seven.

Their latest strong run was partly sparked by the brilliance of Sergio Aguero - most obviously by his brilliant hat-trick against Bayern Munich last month - but City have been without their star striker for the last three games.

The Argentinian is likely to be out another month with his knee injury and Pellegrini, although confident his team can maintain their momentum, acknowledges they need him back soon.

He said: "It is enough for me for us just to continue (playing) in the same way - I don't know if better things will come.

"In this moment we are playing in a high level but we always need to return, as soon as we can, Aguero and all the other players that are injured."

City are also without their other senior strikers, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic. Midfielder James Milner operated as a makeshift centre-forward for last week's victory over Crystal Palace with David Silva, who scored twice, behind him.

That arrangement could be repeated at West Brom but Jovetic is back in training could soon return after a hamstring injury.

City's defence has also shown marked improvement during their recent run of form, with just one goal conceded in six games. They have recorded four clean sheets in succession and, encouragingly, three of those have been secured without influential captain Vincent Kompany.

Eliaquim Mangala, who initially struggled after his £32million arrival from Porto, now seems to be finding his feet and Martin Demichelis, the subject of much derision last season, is proving a solid performer.

Pellegrini said: "You can play with more trust if you don't concede a goal. If not, and you are one goal behind, you start playing faster than you need to. It is very important to keep our clean sheet."

With the defensive mistakes now fewer, the decision to release Joleon Lescott - whom City will face at The Hawthorns - at the end of last season seems justified.

Lescott, 32, was a key performer in the 2011-12 title success but struggled to command a regular place in the final two years of his contract.

Pellegrini said: "Every squad needs change every year. He is 33, 34 (sic) years old. We thought it was better for him to continue for another club.

"I was always very happy with his performance for us last year because he is a very good player and an intelligent player."

PA

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