Joleon Lescott has put Manchester City's impressive form over the festive period down to strong starts to games.
City took the lead after just two minutes against Newcastle United last Sunday and had their noses in front after eight minutes against Aston Villa on Tuesday. They went on to win the matches 3-1 and 4-0 respectively and are now level on points with Manchester United at the top of the league.
Lescott, the defender, said: "We have been out of the blocks quickly in the last two games. We were pretty dire in the opening minutes against Everton and it is something we have consciously put right.
"When we get our noses in front we are a hard side to stop. We showed that against Newcastle and Villa. We are always confident that we can hold it."
City's victory over Newcastle was achieved despite Roberto Mancini, the manager, making alterations to the side, and Lescott said all the signs were encouraging for their championship bid.
"What this holiday period has shown, too, is that we have the strength in depth to maintain a challenge up at the top," he said.
"We showed we can make changes, bring people in and not weaken the team. The manager made five changes from Newcastle to Villa and yet the performance was good. There is a real high standard of players right through the whole squad. That gives everyone confidence.
"We are not getting carried away or making any predictions. Our aim is to be consistent and keep the pressure on the sides around us."
City beat today's opponents Blackpool 3-2 earlier this season, but Ian Holloway has vowed that his side will not be looking to settle for just a point at the Eastlands.
"I think Man City have improved massively in the period since they played us," Holloway said. "They are going from strength to strength.
"We won't be going there to shut up shop. We're going there to attack them."
Carlos Tevez, who scored twice in the game at Blackpool, is expected to feature today after recovering from a hamstring problem that meant he was only a substitute against Villa, while Blackpool will welcome back Charlie Adam, their captain, after his suspension.
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OTHER MATCH PREVIEWS
Liverpool v Bolton Wanderers
Roy Hodgson, the Liverpool manager, has apologised to the club’s supporters after he had criticised them for a lack of support in the wake of Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers. “It’s not been an easy ride for me and I was not the first-choice appointment with a lot of fans,” he said. “But if I have offended them in any way I deeply regret that. All I can do is apologise and make it perfectly clear there was nothing offensive in my comments.”
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Stoke City v Everton
David Moyes is happy to continue to play Tim Cahill up front for Everton. The Everton manager has seen his strike trio of Louis Saha, Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford all toil for goals, while Cahill, normally a midfielder, has scored nine. Ahead of today’s trip to Stoke, Moyes said: “I hoped he could do me a job from centre forward and get some more goals from there. We will play the people who are in form and Tim Cahill was certainly in form.”
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Sunderland v Blackburn Rovers
Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, says he is still perplexed about why Blackburn Rovers fired Sam Allardyce and replaced him with Steve Kean. Bruce said: “It doesn’t make sense in football at times. Who would have thought that Sam would have lost his job, and his assistant – and no disrespect to Steve Kean, you give it to a rookie and give him until the end of the season? I just can’t see the logic in that one bit. But then again, nothing surprises me anymore.”
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West Ham v Wigan Athletic
Despite taking five points from their last three games Avram Grant is still looking for further improvement from his West Ham team. The bottom placed side host second bottom Wolves today and Grant said: “The last three games, we’ve seen a lot of improvement in the way we’ve taken points and it’s good. But we need to win [today] against a team that is a very good team.” Wolves will be without Kevin Doyle, the striker, and Jody Craddock, the defender.
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