Saturday, 29 September 2012
Man.City seek end to winless run at Fulham
Roberto Mancini's team have conceded 16 goals in their opening eight league and cup games this term and visit in-form Fulham at Craven Cottage in the midst of a run that has seen them secure league draws against Stoke and Arsenal while recording defeats in cup competitions against Real Madrid and Aston Villa.
In the league, the champions are undefeated but a lack of clean sheets has seen them win just two of their five Premier League games to date.
By contrast, when City completed their fifth league game 12 months ago -coincidentally a 2-2 draw at Fulham – they had won four and drawn one.
"If you want to win the Premier League, you have to be able to keep clean sheets," said City defender Kolo Toure. "We haven't been able to do that as a team and we need to work on that with the manager, definitely."
The opening to City's campaign has also featured numerous changes to personnel, tactics and formations by Mancini as he has attempted to find a winning formula, although Toure insisted the lack of continuity has had no ill effect on the side.
"We leave the manager to make his decision," said Toure. "He is the boss and he does what he thinks is best for the team. We are professional players and we just need to adapt to what he is doing."
Maicon, used in the league just once since joining City on transfer deadline day, may be called up at Craven Cottage after struggling for fitness and form since his £3 million transfer from Inter Milan.
And the Brazilian offered a fascinating insight into Mancini, for whom he played in Italy.
"All winning coaches are the same. If Alex (Ferguson) has the hairdryer, Roberto has the same," he said.
"All winning managers are the same and they show this passion to the players because really want to win. Roberto is no different.
"The manager doesn't like conceding goals and he's very passionate about that and he's already working on that. We will do even more work and our focus is on improving that and improving the team's results as soon as possible."
Italian boss Mancini must also decide whether to hand a third league start of the season to controversial forward Mario Balotelli, with whom he was seen to exchange words at the end of last week's home draw with Arsenal amid reports the player was unhappy with his limited use as a substitute.
Fulham lie sixth, a place ahead of City on goal difference after an impressive start with Dimitar Berbatov, signed on transfer deadline day from Manchester United, the stand-out performer in the back-to-back victories over West Bromwich Albion and Wigan Athletic coming into this game.
Berbatov has struck up a promising understanding with Hugo Rodallega who scored his first goal for the Cottagers at Wigan and the pair will expect to test Mancini's side.
"Berbatov is a fantastic striker, he's been one of the best for many years now," Rodallega said. "It's a pleasure to play alongside him, and I think we work well together. He doesn’t just score goals, but he creates them too.
"That said, the club has a number of talented attacking players with Mladen Petric and Bryan Ruiz also fighting for a place.
"The competition for a starting spot is really high, but it's a challenge I enjoy facing."