Manchester: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has warned his players that Liverpool are capable of dealing another major blow to their title hopes in Sunday’s showdown at Eastlands.
The reigning Premier League champions wasted a chance to keep the pressure on Manchester United when they were held to a 0-0 draw by struggling QPR in midweek and they could be 10 points behind the leaders by the time they face Liverpool this weekend.
If United beat Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday, City’s title defence will be in serious danger and Mancini is well aware that Liverpool have the individual talent to add to his team’s problems.
While Reds manager Brendan Rodgers has endured mixed results this season as he tries to develop a new system at Anfield, Mancini believes Liverpool will always be a threat while they can call on the likes of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard.
“When you want to change like Liverpool have it is difficult sometimes,” Mancini said.
“Rodgers did some good results but Liverpool always is a strong team. It will be a dangerous game on Sunday.”
City have yet to concede a goal in 2013 and have kept seven straight cleansheets in all competitions but Mancini feels they also have to start scoring more if they are to close the gap on United.
“I think we improve a lot with our defence because all the team works hard,” Mancini added. “It is important to keep this but to score also. We maybe should have seven to nine goals more.”
Mancini is also hoping United’s busy February and March, during which they face Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League, will cause them to drop points in domestic action.
“They are two important games for United so I think that February and March could be the time when it’s possible to decide this championship,” he said.
City will be without captain Vincent Kompany on Sunday as the defender is out for up to three weeks with a calf injury, but Mancini is hopeful Matija Nastasic will return at the back after missing the QPR draw.
Meanwhile, Liverpool assistant manager Colin Pascoe believes the forward pairing of Suarez and Daniel Sturridge is improving all the time as the Reds look to become the first team to score against City this year.
Sturridge signed from Chelsea in January for €12 million and his arrival has seen Suarez, who has scored 22 goals already this term, drop back into a deeper role but Pascoe believes it is working well for them.
“In training and from the matches you can see them looking for each other to link up,” he said. “Good players will always find half a yard with their partner and it has been great so far.
“Good players will gel together and Daniel and Luis are good players. When they get on the pitch the football takes over and the football brain and football finesse means they gel together.”
Liverpool’s other January signing Philippe Coutinho will not feature on Sunday, but Pascoe has backed the €9 million signing from Inter Milan to be able to deal with the pressure at Anfield.
Rodgers expressed his concern with his young squad following their embarrassing FA Cup exit to Oldham last weekend, but Pascoe believes 20-year-old Coutinho will add to the squad.
“He has played a lot of games from a young age,” said Pascoe. “What we have got there is a young talent who has played a lot for Inter Milan and Espanyol.
“The young lads who have come through have been absolutely brilliant but he has a lot of experience.
“He has to sort a few things out in Milan but he’ll be back next week and he will be a great addition to the squad.”