Sunderland-Manchester City Preview
By TOM BENNETT
STATS European Football Writer
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Manchester City will be looking to shrug off their recent malaise as they welcome Sunderland to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Black Cats took four points off City last season, and the Premier League champions go into this match reeling from their disappointing display in their 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund at home in the Champions League in midweek. Despite the positive omens, Sunderland defender John O'Shea is expecting a tough test.
"We can't afford to think about last season at all. It's a totally different situation," said O'Shea. "City have added to their squad and we've added to our squad. Saying that, it will be in their minds, definitely, that we took four points off them.
"They had a midweek Champions League game and then at the weekend there is an early kick-off and I know from experience that sometimes there can be a bit of a hangover from that. He (manager Roberto Mancini) will probably make a few changes and it will be very difficult to predict what team he will play on Saturday. We're just going to have to make sure that we are ready ourselves."
A late Mario Balotelli penalty rescued the point for City on Wednesday against Bundesliga champions Dortmund, and Robert Mancini urged his team to up their level of performance after the game.
"We have to run and fight," said Mancini. "It's not enough to just pass. Champions League is another situation - different from the championship. It's not enough to just have quality."
"Goalkeeper Joe Hart was in imperious form against the German visitors, making several world-class saves among his nine for the match, but is aware City need to sharpen up ahead of their next European game (against Ajax).
It's nice to make saves, it is not something I have to do a great deal at City, but when required I try to step in and I was required a few times," said the England number one. "I don't know if it is a learning curve - we are in with the big boys now, there is no place to hide. There is no point learning if you are not going to win. We need one big game against Ajax next."
Samir Nasri (knock) and Javi Garcia (thigh) are doubtful, although Maicon and Micah Richards may return from ankle injuries. Sunderland have doubts over Wes Brown (calf) and Carlos Cuellar (hamstring), while Phil Bardsley is out with an ankle problem.
Sunderland were the only team City didn't beat in the league last season, and the only side to take a point away from the Etihad Stadium. However, last season's 3-3 draw was the first time the Black Cats had avoided defeat at Man City in eight visits. City have conceded in four straight home matches, and haven't failed to keep a clean sheet in five consecutive home games since 2009. Carlos Tevez has had nine attempts on target this season - the same as the whole Sunderland squad combined.
Updated October 4, 2012