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Bernardo Silva demands a reaction from Manchester City's faltering stars

Guardiola's side face Southampton on Sunday coming off the back of two successive defeats in the Premier League

Manchester City winger Bernardo Silva felt the pain as City lost a second Premier League game in succession away to Leicester City last week. Reuters
Manchester City winger Bernardo Silva felt the pain as City lost a second Premier League game in succession away to Leicester City last week. Reuters

Manchester City face a test of their resolve as they look to pull themselves out of a rare slump at Southampton on Sunday.

The defending champions have ceded the initiative to Liverpool in the title race after losing three of their last four Premier League games.

City, who have slipped to third from what appeared a position of dominance a few weeks ago, only lost twice in the whole of last season.

Their most recent defeats have surprisingly come in back-to-back games against Crystal Palace and Leicester City in the past week, the first time they have lost two in succession in more than two years.

With a crunch clash against Liverpool coming up at the Etihad Stadium next Thursday, Pep Guardiola's men can ill afford to drop more points as they travel to St Mary's on Sunday.

Midfielder Bernardo Silva told City TV: "The last days were not good for us, to lose two games in a row. Especially in this important part of the season, it is never good.

"Now [we have] to check what we have been doing wrong, try to improve those areas and start winning games as fast as possible.

"Seven points starts to be a lot and we have to admit we are not in a good moment and try to come back from that. We need a good reaction from all the lads, that is what we will try to do at Southampton."

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City will hope midfielder Fernandinho will be fit to return, but the Brazilian is again doubtful with a thigh problem. With no natural replacement in the squad, the 33-year-old midfielder was badly missed against Palace and Leicester.

Guardiola also has a problem at left-back after Fabian Delph was sent off on Boxing Day and with Benjamin Mendy still out. Oleksandr Zinchenko is likely to be asked to fill in.

Meanwhile, Ralph Hasenhuttl says Southampton will have to produce a "perfect performance" if they are to pile more misery on City.

The Southampton manager believes the recent losses to Palace and Leicester could make Guardiola's side more dangerous.

"It can be [a bad time to play them] because it's not normal for Manchester City to lose two times in a row," said the former RB Leipzig manager.

"They have also a few injury problems but so much quality in this squad, maybe missing a little bit of self confidence after being in the lead and losing two times.

"It doesn't happen only to Southampton but also Manchester City can lose after getting the lead.

"We expect the most difficult challenge that is possible.

"If we want to keep something in St Mary's we have to play a perfect performance."

The Austrian has twice come up against Guardiola in the dugout when the pair managed in Germany.

His Ingolstadt side were beaten on both occasions by Bayern Munich during the 2015/16 Bundesliga season.

Hasenhuttl has plenty of admiration for his counterpart but feels they have contrasting styles of play.

"I have a lot of respect for Pep. He is a fantastic human, a fantastic guy and a hard worker," he said.

"He has a very clear philosophy, I think he makes every player a better player."

Mario Lemina is doubtful for the City game with a stomach problem but fellow midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg returns from a one-match ban.

Young striker Michael Obafemi (hamstring) and left-back Ryan Bertrand (back) remain sidelined.

Updated: December 29, 2018 03:49 PM

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