Manuel Pellegrini says that it’s only important that Manchester City are “involved” in the title race by February.
City are third in the Barclays Premier League at Christmas, six points behind leaders Leicester and four adrift of second-placed Arsenal.
They started the season superbly, quickly establishing themselves as favourites with five consecutive wins during which they did not concede.
But form since has been patchy and momentum has slowed, with Monday’s loss at title rivals Arsenal their fifth defeat of the campaign.
Pellegrini says he is not overly concerned, claiming merely staying in touch is all that matters at this stage.
The Chilean said: “I think it’s very important to be involved, as we are now, at the end of January. If you can be leaders before then that is better, but I think you need to be there on the last day of January. Then, in the last three months, you can win the title.”
City travel to Leicester on Tuesday for another big clash but must first negotiate Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium on Boxing Day.
Pellegrini said: “We need to focus game by game. The next game is Sunderland and we must try to beat them here. That’s never an easy game.
“Only after that do we think about Leicester. It’s very important to win these two games to finish off the first half of the season.
“We lost important points against Arsenal. I said before the game that it was a game of six points but it was not a decisive game. I repeat that you never win the title in December.”