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Rodgers pleased by post-Suarez Liverpool Pellegrini wary of another collapse

LONDON, Aug 18, (Agencies): Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini remains wary of avoiding another “disaster” the season after winning a Premier League title, despite the comfortable nature of Sunday’s opening 2-0 victory at Newcastle United. Three years ago, City claimed their first top-flight title in 44 years under Italian Roberto Mancini but were off the pace during their defence the following season, finishing well behind local rivals Manchester United in second spot. Last season brought another league crown to the Etihad Stadium in Pellegrini’s first campaign at the club, and he said they could not afford to rest on their laurels if they hoped to avoid another letdown. “This team won the title two years ago and the next season was a disaster, it wasn’t a useful year for anyone,” the Chilean told the BBC.

“Last season, Manchester United had a disaster (finished seventh) after winning the title. “It’s important from the beginning that we understand we won the title last season and need to win again this year.” City were not at their thrilling best at St James’ Park, with some players not up to full fitness and Newcastle showing some steel that was missing for much of last season. However, their attacking riches proved the difference, Yaya Toure and Edin Dzeko combining to set up David Silva before halftime and Sergio Aguero adding a second late on. Fernando, a 15 million euros ($20.08 million) arrival from Porto, was confident on his midfield debut and with Eliaquim Mangala, Bacary Sagna, Willy Caballero and Frank Lampard not featuring, Pellegrini was confident he had the squad depth to claim repeat Premier League titles for the first time.

“It’s very difficult to compare each year. Maybe last year a lot of people doubted we could win the title because it was my first season here in the Premier League,” Pellegrini said. “Today, we have one year more working with the players and we have a strong squad. “You have five or six teams that can win the title, so we need the same attitude, the hunger with which we have started the season and the same humility in every game. “I am sure this squad can fight, and we will see at the end of the season which titles we will win.” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said he was encouraged by the manner in which his side have responded to life without Luis Suarez following their 2-1 win over Southampton. Uruguay striker Suarez departed Liverpool for Barcelona during the close season and there were question marks over how Liverpool would cope in his absence. Liverpool were far from their best against Southampton in their opening Premier League game of the season at Anfield on Sunday.
 
But victory was secured courtesy of Daniel Sturridge’s winner 11 minutes from time after Nathaniel Clyne had cancelled out Raheem Sterling’s first-half strike. “Our ambitions here at Liverpool have to be bigger than one player,” Rodgers said. “Luis sent us a lovely text (message) this morning wishing us all the best, which was a great gesture. He is a friend now of Liverpool. He’s a great boy, but he is gone now. “We are bigger than any player. We do still want another striker, but that will depend on the availability. It was all about winning against Southampton and we got there. “As much as the good football we play, it was about grinding it out so I am really happy with that determination and character.
 
“It was very hard-fought. Just because Southampton have lost players, it’s not going to be a walkover.
“The players are still searching for their fitness, they are still getting their condition and getting themselves back into it. We weren’t as fluent, but it was about the win.” Sterling put Liverpool ahead with a composed finish from Jordan Henderson’s sublime through-ball, but Clyne fired in Southampton’s equaliser following a clever flick from debutant Dusan Tadic. However, Liverpool secured maximum points when Southampton failed to clear a cross, allowing Sterling to head the ball into the path of Sturridge, who scruffily nudged it past Fraser Forster.

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