Mancini ready for big month

City have so far been unable to transfer their domestic dominance

onto the continental stage with their Champions League prospects

now receding after a shattering loss at Napoli earlier this week.

Mancini’s men were beaten 2-1 by the Italians and their hopes of

progressing beyond the group stage are out of their hands. They can

put that aside at Liverpool on Sunday as they return to the Premier

League platform on which they are thriving, having opened up a

clear lead at the top of the table. Mancini would like a response

similar to that which sparked a nine-game winning run after

September’s defeat at Bayern Munich but he points out there is

nothing straightforward about a trip to Anfield. He said: “The game

(on Sunday) will be different. After Munich we played Blackburn.

That game was difficult but I think (Sunday) will be more

difficult. Liverpool are a strong team. “I think Champions League

and Barclays Premier League are different situations. “Now we have

lost against Napoli, maybe we have less chance to go through. “But

in the Premier League we are on top and we want to continue to do

well.” City have a poor recent record at Anfield having not won in

their last eight visits. Last season Andy Carroll scored twice as

they were trounced 3-0 but City, who have won 11 of their opening

12 league games this season, are now a much tougher proposition.

Mancini said: “I think we are better as a team this year. Last

year, one week later, we played an FA Cup semi-final and that was

important. “We played without three or four important players. “But

sometimes the other team can play better and Liverpool played very

well. “I think this year we have improved a lot as a team. We have

played very well and we have scored goals.” City have certainly

been in fine goalscoring form, having struck 42 times in the league

so far, but Mancini sees the coming month as a stern test of their

credentials. He said: “We play against Liverpool, Norwich, West

Brom, Chelsea, Arsenal – I think the next month will be an

important month.” City actually play Arsenal twice in the weeks

ahead, the first being a Carling Cup quarter-final at the Emirates

Stadium on Tuesday. The Gunners then visit the Etihad Stadium in

the league in December, a month that will also feature their

decisive Champions League game against Bayern and a home clash with

Stoke. Mancini has reacted philosophically to his side’s Champions

League predicament, even saying he does not believe they are good

enough to win the competition. City must beat Bayern next month and

hope Villarreal can collect their first point of the group stage

against Napoli to progress, or drop into the Europa League.

Expectations had been high owing to City’s scintillating Premier

League form but Mancini views it as a learning experience. He said:

“I think it is very important to play Champions League for two or

three years. “It was important to get into the second stage for our

experience. “If we met Barca or Real Madrid, it is difficult, but

in football everything can happen in one or two games. We could

beat Barcelona. “But we are playing Champions League for the first

year. “We are a good team but I don’t think we have a team that can

try to win Barclays Premier League and try to win Champions League,

do a good job in the FA Cup and Carling Cup. “I think this is very

difficult for us but we want to try if possible. “We have good

players but other teams have been used to playing Champions League

for many years. “For me there are some teams in the Champions

League that are worse than us but maybe they can do better.” City

have been further linked this week with two of Napoli’s star

players in strikers Edinson Cavani, who scored both his side’s

goals on Tuesday, and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Yet even with Carlos Tevez

currently out of the picture, Mancini says he is happy with his

current strikeforce. He said: “I have three strikers and this is

enough. We also have three or four other players who can play as a

second striker. “I think Cavani and Lavezzi are strong players but

they play for Napoli in this moment and I don’t know what can

happen in the future.”