James Milner targets Manchester City to ‘open up a little gap of our own’ on Chelsea

Noting that Manchester City 'might have been written off' before their charge back to get level on points with Chelsea, but cautions 'we haven't wont the league'.

Manchester City's James Milner celebrates his winning goal on Sunday in an FA Cup third round victory over Sheffield Wednesday. Peter Powell / EPA / January 4, 2015
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James Milner hopes champions Manchester City can now seize the initiative in the title race.

City are joint top of the Premier League with Chelsea at the start of 2015 after hitting a rich spell of form.

They trailed the Londoners by eight points in November and their indifferent form was raising questions over the long-term future of manager Manuel Pellegrini.

But many doubts have been swept aside amid a run of 13 games unbeaten in all competitions.

Their only blip during the congested festive programme was a 2-2 draw with Burnley and Milner sees no reason why momentum cannot be maintained throughout a tough-looking January.

City travel to Everton on Saturday before hosting Arsenal the following week and then ending the month with a much-anticipated clash against title rivals Chelsea.

“Hopefully we’ll be looking to open up a little gap of our own,” said Milner, who underlined his importance to the side with a vital double in Sunday’s FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday.

“You look at this run (ahead) and people think it is tougher than the games we had over Christmas but – it is an old cliche in the Premier League – there are form teams and out-of-form teams. Every game is difficult.

“You’ve got teams at the bottom who look and think, ‘We’re going to win that game,’ – look at Burnley coming here and how well they played.

“Sometimes it is easier to play against teams who are mid-table and pushing for Europe and are moving it around a lot more. Who knows what an easy game is? It is the Premier League.

“All we can do is concentrate on our games and if we can get the results we want to get, it depends on how Chelsea do.”

Milner feels people were too quick to write City off as Chelsea made all the early running.

But the England international claims there is no satisfaction to be taken from proving them wrong – because the job is not yet completed.

He said: “No, not yet because we are not at the top and you want to be at the top as early as you can.

“We might have been written off but we haven’t won the league. It is all right being in the race in January, but you need to be in there in May.

“But we have been there before and what is said outside the camp is irrelevant to us. We have got that experience. We have been there before.

“We were written off in March or April the first time but we won it, we turned it round. That experience helps.”

Milner’s performance at the weekend emphasised why the club are keen to get him to sign a new contract.

With City trailing 1-0 to the Championship side, midfielder Milner was asked to reprise the centre-forward role he played during December due to injuries.

He responded – on what was his 29th birthday – with the two goals that turned around the third-round tie, with the dramatic winner coming in stoppage-time.

Talks with Milner over a new deal to replace the one that expires this summer have reached an advanced stage, but the player is still to commit.

Pellegrini is hopeful it will be concluded soon but, for now, Milner wants to talk only about events on the field.

And for him, with Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero close to fitness, that might involve another switch of position while central midfielder Yaya Toure is at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Milner said: “We will see what the manager wants to do. Yaya is a big miss for us because of what he has done at the club but we have to deal with that and carry on this run we have been on.”

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