Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini says his side's trip to leaders Chelsea will be a pivotal game in their hopes of retaining the Premier League title.

City lost ground to Chelsea after they suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Arsenal and are now five points adrift.

Chelsea host City on 31 January with Pellegrini aware they must claw back points on Jose Mourinho's side.

"The game we play at Stamford Bridge is a very important game. We must close the gap to two points," he said.

"It's very important to win the next game against Chelsea. I hope we are going to recover and play the way we have been playing so far."

Arsenal won at Etihad thanks to a penalty from Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud's header.

City missed the presence of Yaya Toure, who is on international duty with Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations, against the Gunners.

Pellegrini's side have not won a Premier League game without the midfielder since April last year, but the 61-year-old Chilean claims that did not justify the defeat.

"I think Yaya is a very important player, but I never have excuses," he added.

"We play other games without Yaya and can win also. I never have excuses with one or two players why we don't win."