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Hart, Kompany, Toure, Silva and Aguero City's big hope of title

Manuel Pellegrini still has hopes of finishing his time as Manchester City boss as a Premier League title-winner and he will put his faith in his "big five" players to achieve it.

Despite splashing out close to £150 million on new signings in the summer, the City boss will turn to the quintet that have been there and done it all before to lead the charge for a second title of his three-year stint.

Pellegrini has made no secret of the importance and experience of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and David Silva and he is desperate for them to stay fit in the final 10 games as they try to reel in Leicester City's 10-point lead at the top.

None of them were his signings but it is a testament to their quality that, after nearly three years in charge, the Chilean is still heavily reliant on those same players and that he has not been able to sign anyone nearly as influential.

Pellegrini said of his outfield players in February: "It's always important to have our best players 100 percent fit to play. It's very important to have all of them together."

It's easy to see why. They have started just six games together in all competitions this season and City have won five of them. The game they lost, a 2-1 defeat at home to second-placed Tottenham, was Kompany's first game back after a three-month injury lay-off and included a Harry Kane penalty controversially awarded against Raheem Sterling for a handball.

This season has seen a huge dip in performance from the Blues. They've lost eight games in the Premier League already, more than any other entire season since 2011, and could even struggle to beat the 71 points they amassed that season.

However, those five players have maintained their impact when fit and it's largely been a brutal injury list that has most hampered their title challenge.

Captain Kompany has been possibly the biggest miss. City won their first five Premier League games of the season without conceding a goal but it started to go wrong when he limped out of the Champions League defeat to Juventus with a recurring calf problem. The Belgium international has not started 18 league games and without him, City have won just once while keeping a clean sheet.

Hart is another who has been close to his best. The 28-year-old has a record four Golden Glove awards for most clean sheets in a season and is line for a fifth, currently sitting joint top in the standings with Arsenal's injured keeper Petr Cech.

Striker Aguero has missed nearly a third of the season with a combination of injuries but has still bagged 21 goals from 31 appearances, including 10 from his past 10 appearances. He is now just three behind Leicester's Jamie Vardy, the league's leading scorer.

The only two of the five to have struggled to reach their greatest heights is possibly Silva and Toure. Silva's drop in form has been the most alarming but the Spanish playmaker has been suffering from a niggling ankle injury and Pellegrini admitted that he has had to play through the pain since his return from his last lay-off in December.

But his undoubted quality cannot be forgotten and the 30-year-old, who has created more assists than any other player in the Premier League in the past five years, was the man of the match for many of the games of City's great start to the campaign.

Toure has come under the most fire this season with criticism that the 32-year-old is struggling to keep pace with the Premier League.

Manchester City's star men will have to find form if they want to cut Leicester's lead at the top.

But earlier this month when asked about Toure, Pellegrini joked at a news conference: "When Yaya plays you always ask me why I don't take him out and when Yaya doesn't play you miss Yaya. He will always be a very important player. Not only in the dressing room but in the pitch. I think for 90 minutes he brings quality and all the players trust in him because he makes an important difference."

Toure's future is in doubt with speculation that he will follow Pellegrini out of the club in the summer. But for the final 10 games, he will remain firmly part of the first team thinking.

The Ivorian is still the man for the big moment. He has scored three times at Wembley, as well as the winning penalty in the Capital One Cup final victory against Liverpool in February, and contributed pivotal goals in City's two title triumphs in 2012 and 2014.

It's the sort of huge contribution that Pellegrini will be looking for from his big five as he tries to crank up the pressure on their title rivals.

Pellegrini's predecessor Roberto Mancini, who won City's first title in 2012, brought in Aguero, Toure and Silva, while Kompany was signed before Sheikh Mansour arrived and Hart is in his 10th year at the club. Those five are still as important as they've ever been.

It will be up to Pellegrini's replacement, Pep Guardiola, to bring the best out of big-money signings Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Nicolas Otamendi when the Bayern Munich manager takes charge next season.

For now, the current boss will turn to his old hands to try to wave him off clutching one last medal.

Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.


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