Roberto Mancini leads Manchester City FC into their UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg against Sporting Clube de Portugal determined not to wallow in the club's worst spell of the season.
Last week's 1-0 loss in Lisbon was followed by defeat at Swansea City AFC on Sunday, a result which saw City, who had topped the Premier League since October, surrender the summit to rivals Manchester United FC. Mancini, though, is in no mood to give up the fight just yet.
"In Portugal and against Swansea, we didn't play very well − we didn't play like Manchester City usually does," said the Italian. "We probably didn't deserve to lose both games but we need to play better. Now we can't cry, now is the time to be strong and keep going because we are a top team."
Having won five of their last six matches in all competitions, Sporting will be no pushovers. They proved as much last week, Xandão's impish back-heel earning the hosts a narrow advantage. "
Every time I have played against a Portuguese team I've had a problem because they play very good football, they have good possession and they defend very well," added Mancini. "But tomorrow we want to win and we have to do our best if we want to beat Sporting."
City will take heart, however, from their 16-match unbeaten home run in Europe, a streak which features 13 wins and stretches back to August 2008. Furthermore, Sporting have triumphed only once in their last eight European fixtures on the road.
The portents may point to a City victory but Sporting coach Ricardo Sá Pinto is sure his side will be ready for anything their hosts throw at them. "They will try to surprise us and they will try to score an early goal," he said. "That is what we are expecting, but we are prepared. If I believed before that we could go through, I still have that belief. If we can carry on in the same way as in the first leg, I know the players have that belief we can go through.
They lost against Swansea and against us but they will have the desire to win tomorrow. We have to play to our potential and they have to play to their potential, so it will be very interesting. City have very few weak points. They have a few injuries but they also have numbers with which they can replace players. We know tomorrow will be a tough task, but we will do our best to get through."
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