x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Mancini: Concentration is the key for Manchester City

Mancini unhappy at hectic schedule that awaits City.

Roberto Mancini feels Manchester City players now face a test of their nerve as they head into January after a frustrating draw at West Bromwich Albion.

City saw their two-point lead at the top of the Premier League wiped out yesterday as they were kept scoreless, for the first time this season, at The Hawthorns.

City could begin 2012 in second place as title rivals Manchester United are in action before City play at Sunderland on New Year's Day.

The trip to the Stadium of Light comes at the start of a hectic month for City, with the first of three games against Liverpool coming two days later and an FA Cup tie with United also to follow.

Mancini said: "I'm disappointed only because we play January 1 and January 3, and Liverpool play December 29 and the third against us.

"I'm not happy with this situation because two days in this moment is not correct. I don't know why this is. Well, maybe it's for TV.

"To play twice in 48 hours will make a difference in this moment, but we have good concentration and, in January, that is important.

"I think United will win the next game and it's more difficult for us against Sunderland away and then within 48 hours again.

"But I'm confident we can do a good job by the end. It's important to stay in with a chance of the title at the end. If you want to win the title, we have to try to play well against United.

"United have a strong team but we are strong enough to do this."

City lacked their usual bite but were also unlucky; Mario Balotelli hit the bar from distance and had a goal ruled out for offside. The Italian also had a free kick deflected wide, and David Silva side-footed a good chance over.

West Brom, however, thoroughly deserved a point and had good chances themselves, with Jerome Thomas hitting the post, Chris Brunt shooting wide and Paul Scharner testing Joe Hart.

Mancini said: "Sometimes you don't win. We know that it's impossible to stay top for all 38 games.

"Every team has a plan but if we don't score in the first half it's difficult. We will probably have another eight or nine games in next 20 days like this.

"West Bromwich played with all their players around the ball and you have to find a solution if you don't score quickly in the first half."

Roy Hodgson, the West Brom coach, was proud of the effort of his players, which backed up an impressive victory at Newcastle.

He said: "We have got to be pleased with that, we knew the magnitude of the task. We had to be at our best to try to keep them at bay. It was a very disciplined, hard-working performance, defensively.

"We don't stop many sides scoring; we are not a great clean-sheet team. So it was great to do it against a side of Man City's calibre. It's a bit concerning when you're the opposing manager watching the likes of [Edin] Dzeko and [Adam] Johnson coming on, when already you are dealing with [Sergio] Aguero and Balotelli.

"You think you are doing OK, then someone else comes on to cause you different problems."

He said his side gained confidence as the match progressed. "Maybe had the game gone on longer … we might have done even better.