Tuesday 21 November 2017

Mancini warns City of wounded Chelsea threat

Andy Hampson

MANCHESTER City boss Roberto Mancini has warned his side to fear a Chelsea backlash this weekend.

The Barclays Premier League leaders travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday at the end of a tumultuous week for the London club.

Chelsea sacked manager Roberto Di Matteo in midweek and installed Rafael Benitez as his replacement after a series of damaging results.

The Blues had gone four Premier League games without a win before a loss to Juventus in the Champions League, which left their European title defence hanging by a thread, and proved the final act for Di Matteo.

The club have also received further criticism after the Football Association dismissed their allegations of inappropriate language against referee Mark Clattenburg.

Mancini said: "I am very sorry for Di Matteo because he won the Champions League three or four months ago (actually six) but this is our life.

"When we make this choice (to become a manager) we know it can also be difficult. It is difficult for him, (but) this is the manager's life.

"Usually when one team changes a manager the game after for the opponents is very difficult. For us, I think it is more difficult.

"Chelsea is a good team with Di Matteo and will be a good team for Benitez. They have good players.

"Until three games ago they played fantastic football and were on the top."

Chelsea began the month on top of the league and were widely praised for their attacking quality.

At the same time City were struggling to reproduce the swashbuckling form which carried them to the title last season.

But Mancini's men - on the domestic front at least - have managed to keep grinding out results and they remain unbeaten, four points above Chelsea.

City were also unbeaten ahead of the corresponding fixture last season but were beaten 2-1 in what was their 15th game of the campaign.

Mancini said: "Chelsea is one of the best teams in England, in Europe, they (have) won everything in the last 10 years.

"Playing against them in London is always a good game. To win there would be important for us."

City are also hoping to bounce back from their own European disappointment having been eliminated from the Champions League following a 1-1 draw with Real Madrid on Wednesday.

City had needed to win to maintain any hope of progressing to the knockout stage but were unable to find a winner after recovering from a goal behind.

Mancini claims the blow was not so devastating because he had already been resigned to such a fate after poor results in previous games.

He said: "I reflected after Ajax, not after Wednesday night.

"It was finished, it was really difficult to go to the next stage. We did our mistakes before this game, not in this game.

"We should be passionate for Champions League (again) after this year. This is football.

"In the Champions League, if you do a mistake in the first two games, it is difficult to recover.

"We can't change this now. We can't cry for this. It is easy to be strong when we win every game but we should be strong when we can't win or we can't play Champions League in February."

City also failed to get beyond the group stage last season and, after failing to win any of their first five games this time, Mancini expects lessons to be learnt.

He said: "By this situation we can improve as a team and as a club.

"It is clear we are disappointed because we have players who deserve to play in Champions League. Together we made some mistakes."

Mancini again defended his tactics after deploying his controversial 3-5-2 formation against Real.

The Spaniards tore City's defence apart in the opening half hour and unfortunate to only claim one goal before Mancini reverted to back four.

The Italian said: "You always talk about three or four but when we conceded one goal, we were five against two in the box. It is one individual mistake.

"You cannot concede a goal when you are five against two in the box. We need to work on this."

The backbone of City's defence, captain Vincent Kompany, is facing a fitness test after suffering a knee injury late in Wednesday's game.

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