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Manchester City have been affected by the news that Pep Guardiola will take over as manager at the end of the season, according to current boss Manuel Pellegrini.
City's title challenge faltered in the wake of the club's decision to announce Guardiola's appointment on February 1 and, while they have qualified for the semi-finals of the Champions League, they find themselves 13 points behind Premier League leaders Leicester with five games remaining.
Injuries to key players have contributed to some poor results in the league, but Pellegrini believes news of Guardiola's imminent arrival has played a key role in their form.
"Of course for different reasons we lost important games in February, against Leicester and Tottenham - two games which do not allow us to be involved in the title," Pellegrini is quoted as saying in the Daily Mirror.
"I am frustrated because we never expected to lose those games at home against Leicester and Tottenham. But there are a lot of reasons why those things happened. It's not normal in the way we are going to finish the season.
"At the start of February there was news about the change of the manager, about players who will not continue here next season, about a lot of things that involved the minds of all the players.
"We had those defeats at home, but now we are stable again and very happy to finish playing the way we have in these last games."
Speculation over the makeup of Guardiola's squad has intensified in recent weeks and Pellegrini admits that is on the player's minds as the end of the season approaches, but he is pleased with the character shown by the players under the circumstances.
"It's not easy for the players when you read in newspapers all things that will happen next season - all the players who will go out, all the players that will come in. It's not easy for the players to focus their mind," he said.
"But I think the merit of this squad is always that it had a lot of character, personality. We never give up, we continue in the same way, and I hope we will see in the future in the Champions League - I am sure this team, playing in this way, can play in the final."