Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri has warned rivals Chelsea that his side have the experience to chase them down in the race for the Premier League title.
Manuel Pellegrini’s City trail Jose Mourinho’s league leaders by three points as they prepare to host mid-table Sunderland on New Year’s Day.
City won the title last season despite having trailed both Arsenal and Liverpool for long periods during the campaign and Nasri believes that knowhow gives City an advantage in the current title race.
“Everyone is stronger,” said the Frenchman. “We get older, we get more mature and stronger mentally.
“You learn to deal with different situations. At this club we’ve been through all the different situations. We know how to deal with the pressure.
“We know we are good at being second and chasing someone. We’ve done it before. We know how to deal with every situation and we are ready for it.”
City spurned a good opportunity to cut Chelsea’s lead to one point on Sunday when they squandered a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with struggling Burnley after the London club were held to a 1-1 draw at Southampton.
It also meant Pellegrini’s men missed out on the chance to register a club-record 10th successive victory, but Nasri says the main focus now is on adding to their points total.
“We’re frustrated,” he said. “We were aware of the Chelsea result and it was a great chance for us to be just one point behind.
“Nobody talks about that record of 10 consecutive wins. That doesn’t matter. The most important thing was to finish the year at home with a win, with 45 points from the first half (of the season).
“That would have been a good thing, but we didn’t do it. All we want to do is win. We couldn’t do that, so let’s be focused for Sunderland.”
– Rodwell on standby –
City striker Stevan Jovetic is expected to be fit enough to start the match against Gus Poyet’s team, having appeared as a substitute against Burnley.
James Milner has been used as a makeshift striker in the absence of Jovetic and Sergio Aguero and Edin Dezko, both of whom remain out through injury.
Fernando is unavailable after collecting his fifth yellow card of the season, meaning Frank Lampard could start in midfield.
Meanwhile, Poyet has challenged Jack Rodwell to kick-start his flagging Sunderland career by showing former club City what they are missing.
The one-time England midfielder has failed to impress since a £10 million ($15.6 million, 12.8 million euros) switch to the Stadium of Light in August, making just 10 league starts and scoring once.
Rodwell might have hoped to prove Pellegrini wrong for showing him the door after an unhappy two-year spell at the Etihad Stadium.
But the former Everton player has struggled to make an impact in the northeast and has managed just one substitute appearance in the last five games.
The 23-year-old failed to even make the bench for the 0-0 stalemate at Aston Villa on Sunday that kept Sunderland four points above the relegation zone.
But with midfielders Sebastian Larsson and Liam Bridcutt both injury doubts for Thursday’s trip to Manchester, Rodwell has been put on standby to face his old club.
“I need him,” said Sunderland coach Poyet. “I’m sure he’ll bounce back and probably have a great opportunity on Thursday with the injuries in midfield.”
Larsson is struggling with ankle ligament damage, while Bridcutt suffered concussion after clashing with Villa striker Christian Benteke as Poyet’s side fought out their 11th draw this season. – Agence France-Presse