Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini claims his team will be refreshed and ready for the challenge of Middlesbrough after a week in Abu Dhabi.
The Premier League champions flew to the United Arab Emirates for a five-day warm-weather training camp straight after last week’s frustrating loss to Arsenal.
Their trip included a friendly against German side Hamburg but they were only due to return to Manchester on Friday the day before the visit of Championship high-fliers Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fourth round.
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Some have questioned the wisdom of the mid-season venture given the travelling involved, but Pellegrini does not think the longhaul flight will adversely affect preparation.
He said: “We are not worried about the travelling element.
“There is only a few hours difference and we will return to the CFA (City Football Academy) on Friday and prepare for the game as normal. It was the right time to have a break and we’ve enjoyed our stay in Abu Dhabi.
“Last January we played eight or nine games so it was important to have this time so we can return refreshed.”
The trip may have come at a cost with former England midfielder Frank Lampard withdrawn 20 minutes into the Hamburg match as a precaution after suffering an injury in the warm-up.
That might make him doubtful for the Middlesbrough clash but the problem is reportedly not serious and Lampard is expected to be fit to face his former club and title rivals Chelsea next week.
But while Lampard may sit out this weekend, Pellegrini has no great plans to rest star names.
He said: “Of course there are always opportunities for players to impress and stake a claim for a place, but we are playing on Saturday and (then) not in midweek. We will have a full week to recover before we play Chelsea, so with that in mind I will try and put out the strongest team I can.”
Middlesbrough head to the Etihad Stadium in good form having lost just once in their last 15 matches. They are now second in the Championship following a 2-1 win over Cardiff on Tuesday.
City can boast similar statistics themselves having hit form since November but the Arsenal loss has just robbed the team of momentum and left them trailing Chelsea by five points.
Pellegrini therefore sees no room for complacency this weekend.
He said: “They are well organised and don’t concede many goals so unless we play with 100 per cent intensity and concentration we will find it difficult to progress into the next round of the FA Cup.
“I expect a tough game because Middlesbrough are doing very well in the Championship. I know their manager Aitor Karanka very well and he is doing an excellent job so far.
“Middlesbrough may not be a Premier League team but they are fighting to win promotion and this will be a very difficult match and we need to be at our best to win.”
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