"There is no split and the players are telling me that".

Defeats to Liverpool, Tottenham and Leicester City have seen City's stranglehold on fourth position virtually evaporate, with rivals Manchester United only adrift on goal difference after 28 rounds, though they have played a game extra.

"There is one guarantee from this season - that nothing is sure".

"It is an awkward season - good for the fans but you can't predict anything can you?"

Pellegrini, whose side have a game in hand on Claudio Ranieri's side, believes as few as 75 points could be enough to win the title this season.

Six of Sergio Aguero's 14 league goals this season, meantime, have been openers; back him to net first at 9/4 with Yaya Toure a solid value 13/10 anytime shot.

He told a news conference: "Don't ask me about thinking in a negative way because I never do it. It's not in my mind thinking about that at this moment [missing out on the Champions League]".

He said: "With every point we lose, it makes it more hard and now we must be focused as we don't have any margin of error".

Bills drop Leodis McKelvin, pick up $3.9 million in cap room
The 30-year-old played in just nine games last year due to a lingering ankle injury he sustained during the 2014 season. Hours after his release , McKelvin said his goodbyes to the team and their "amazing and supportive" fans on Instagram.

"We are in a bad moment in the Premier League but we are not going to give up", said Pellegrini ahead of their clash with Aston Villa. "City will roll them over".

A home game against bottom club Villa on Saturday ought to provide the opportunity to begin collecting league points again and Pellegrini has made clear that a repeat of Wednesday's performance will not be accepted.

City have lost three successive Premier League games for the first time since 2008, to leave their title hopes in jeopardy before Pellegrini makes way for Pep Guardiola this summer.

"We have experience under (Roberto) Mancini nearly four years ago and then (Manuel) Pellegrini two years ago, so I believe we can do it. We know it will be hard but we have to believe".

City, who won the Capital One Cup on penalties against Liverpool last Sunday and are still in the Champions League, have won just one league game since the start of February - a 1-0 success at Sunderland.

"We have one game in hand but it's more important not to think about that but just to improve our Premier League performances".

"We have to take what we can get". All the teams in the relegation positions are hard because they try to win in any way.