Saturday 23 September 2017

Kompany retains title belief

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is full of belief
Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is full of belief

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany insists the champions will never give up on the title.

City produced one of their best performances of the season to claim a much-needed first win in five Barclays Premier League games with an impressive 4-1 demolition of Stoke on Wednesday.

The result at the Britannia Stadium did not affect Chelsea's seven-point lead at the top of the table - as the Londoners claimed a last-gasp win over Everton - but sent out a message that City will fight on.

And after coming from behind to seize the crown in both 2012 and 2014, Kompany believes history should also prove that.

The Belgian said: "Belief never goes. Past experiences should give us enough confidence to carry on and go for it.

"It has happened before. The belief is always there, that is never the problem, even when form is not the best.

"But performances like this make us not need to talk so much. It makes it obvious we are a good team and that is what we need to show."

City have already clawed back an eight-point deficit once this season having drawn level with Chelsea on New Year's Day, only to fall back again.

Doubts were raised over their durability during their barren run but Kompany is confident City can now build some momentum.

The 28-year-old said: "This was about us. I don't think anyone thought about Chelsea's result.

"We needed to focus on our own (game) and when we do, it gives us enough satisfaction to not care about Chelsea.

"We know if we are in the right form we can set up a line of results, and that's what we will need for this season."

City went ahead with the first of Sergio Aguero's two strikes in the 33rd minute but were made to scrap by a fired-up Stoke side, who quickly equalised through Peter Crouch.

Crouch, for offside, and Aguero, for handball, had further efforts ruled out before the interval, while Stoke also had a penalty appeal turned down and had some of the better early chances.

But City were formidable in the second half, going back ahead through a James Milner header and making victory certain with an Aguero penalty and superb Samir Nasri strike. It was the first time City had won at the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League.

Defender Pablo Zabaleta said: "It was a great performance by the whole team.

"We are Manchester City and we will never give up, simple as that.

"We have belief in the team and if we play like we did here we will have a chance to catch Chelsea."

There was a slight concern when top scorer Aguero, after scoring his first goals since December 3, went off with a back problem but that was played down by manager Manuel Pellegrini.

The player also took to Twitter to allay any concerns over his fitness.

The Argentinian tweeted: "For the ones asking I'm ok. I stepped out only for precaution. Now let's keep on working for the very important upcoming commitments."

City expect Aguero to be fit to face Newcastle in their next game on February 21, when Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony should also be available after the African Nations Cup. Toure on Thursday took part in his first club training session since the tournament, four days on from helping Ivory Coast win the final.

The defeat for Stoke on Wednesday was only their second in 10 games and manager Mark Hughes was not too disheartened.

Hughes remained pleased with many aspects of the performance and remains confident for the games ahead, starting with Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round tie at Blackburn.

Hughes said: "We played into their hands in the second half but in terms of confidence it won't knock us. We have been on a fantastic run and playing really well.

"For just 45 minutes of play that needed to be better to stop City taking the game away from us - I can't criticise them too much.

"They kept on going, trying to do the right things. On the night City were the best team."

Stoke's positive run has come despite injuries to key players. Stephen Ireland and Marc Wilson missed the game along with Ryan Shawcross and Erik Pieters while Bojan Krkic and Peter Odemwingie are long-term casualties.

Former Barcelona playmaker Bojan, who was enjoying an impressive first campaign with the Potters, was ruled out for the rest of the campaign after rupturing an anterior cruciate ligament last month.

The 24-year-old has now undergone surgery and has tweeted a positive update with a picture of him smiling in his hospital bed.

He wrote: "Thanks to God it went all well. Today starts a new journey, I'll face it giving my best every day."

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