City still in hunt – Hart
JOE HART has insisted that heads will not drop in the Manchester City dressing room, despite another setback in their attempt to retain the Premier League title.
The champions' 2-2 draw with Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium meant another two points dropped and they now trail rivals Manchester United by nine at the top of the table – four more than a week ago.
City manager Roberto Mancini, was quick to insist the title race was not over and Hart maintained that the players would remain confident.
The England goalkeeper said: "We have got to be (confident). There is no point turning up otherwise. We have got to win every game and look not to drop any points. It is a good challenge for us.
"We will always be in it, but unfortunately it's a big gap, getting too big for our liking. But you have to move forward and that means we have to beat Southampton next week. We are nine points behind with 13 games to go, so we need the win."
City claimed a point from a pulsating match against Liverpool when Sergio Aguero rounded Jose Reina and chipped home from an outrageous angle 12 minutes from time.
Hart said: "It was a tough game. I thought Liverpool played really well. I imagine they'll argue we were lucky to get a result in the end. That's a shame but you have got to move forward. It is not the result we wanted but I think a draw is a fair result."
Despite the setbacks, City's recent form remains relatively good. After losing at Sunderland on St Stephen's Day, they won six matches in succession in all competitions before being held to a 0-0 draw at Queen's Park Rangers last Tuesday.
City's defence – currently missing their injured captain, Vincent Kompany – had also gone 584 minutes without conceding when Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge struck against his former club.
Hart added: "We need to do what we have done in the last seven games, when we won six and drew one. Of course, we have now drawn again and that is enough of the draws. We need to start winning."
One bonus for City from the weekend was that Ivory Coast were beaten in the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations by Nigeria.
Midfielder Yaya Touré and his brother Kolo could now be available for the Saturday evening trip to Southampton. Mancini said: "I am sorry for Yaya and Kolo but I hope they come back very angry and they can play well for us."
Meanwhile, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard insists a top-four place remains within their reach even though they are nine points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham.
The next nine weeks will go a long way towards deciding Liverpool's fortures as, apart from Spurs, they will face West Brom, Swansea, Wigan, Southampton, Aston Villa, West Ham and Reading. They will need to get a good return from those games to keep their top-four hopes alive as they have yet to beat any team currently in the top half of the table.
"It's certainly up there with our best performance of the season," said Gerrard as he reflected on their draw with City. "We can take a lot of belief from the way we've performed against Arsenal (also 2-2 last Wednesday) and Manchester City.
"I'm feeling really confident about our ability to move up the table. We might not have got the results we wanted against the top sides but we have certainly matched them if not bettered them in all those games.
"No disrespect to the sides we've got coming up but, if we keep playing like that, we can certainly put in a challenge for fourth place. The team is looking really strong at the moment.
"Before the transfer window we were lacking a bit up front as Luis Suarez was almost having to do two jobs. But now Daniel Sturridge has come in and given us more options going forward. Daniel has done brilliantly for us so far." (© Independent News Service)