MANCHESTER - Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes that his team are finally performing like champions, even though there is no immediate end in sight to their chronic injury problems in attack.
City made light of the fact that they did not have a recognised fit striker in their squad when they beat Crystal Palace 3-0 on Saturday, and moved level on points - for 48 hours at least - with Premier League leaders Chelsea. The Blues meet Stoke City today.
David Silva scored twice and Yaya Toure added the third as the pair continued their recent return to peak form and helped City record an eighth consecutive victory in all competitions.
"I'm delighted that this squad are demonstrating why we won the title last year," said Pellegrini.
"This month is a key month. Maybe it is not the month when you win the title, but you play so many games that if you want to fight for the title, you need to be close to being in the lead.
"Two months ago, we were having a good moment. Nobody believed that we would be continuing in the Champions League and involved in the title (race). But we kept trusting what we were doing and kept working every day."
City's Christmas period continues when they visit struggling West Bromwich Albion on Friday.
Injured forwards Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic will all be unavailable for that contest, meaning James Milner may have to continue to deputise as an emergency lone striker.
"I don't think any will be available," said Pellegrini of his injured strikers.
"I'm sure Dzeko and Aguero will not be fit for Boxing Day, but the first half of next month. We will see with Jovetic and the way he improves from now until next month."
However, with Silva and Toure in such fine form, City should have few problems with an upcoming schedule that sees them take on not only West Brom, but also Burnley and Sunderland.
"These players (stars Toure, Silva and Aguero) make a difference, but if for any reason they can't play, we still have a team who know how to do it. Other players have their moments and are giving important answers, in the way Silva did on Saturday."