Football: Mangala challenges City to regain title momentum
Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala has challenged his team to end a mixed week on a high by regaining top spot in the Premier League.
Last weekend's miserable defeat at Stoke dropped Manuel Pellegrini's side to third, yet they responded with a flourish to beat Borussia Monchengladbach 4-2 and ensuring they finished top of their Champions League group.
That means City are set to avoid Europe's biggest names when the draw for the last 16 is made on Monday, giving rise to hopes that they might finally enjoy a run to the latter stages of the competition.
As a result, things are looking up for Pellegrini's side once more after a poor recent run of league form, with just four points taken from their last four matches.
With confidence raised again, a home match against managerless Swansea on Saturday offers a clear opportunity to regain domestic momentum.
“That's a game we have to win because we want to get back to the top of the table as quickly as possible,” said Mangala, whose club can replace Leicester in first place if they beat Swansea as the leaders and second placed Arsenal don't play until later in the weekend.
“We showed character in the second half on Tuesday and we deserved to win. We kept going, which is what you need to do in games like that, and we got our reward.
“We know we can beat most teams when we are at our best. If we play as well as we did in the second half on Tuesday, we can do very well. But we have to play well for the whole game, not just the second half.”
City's stumbling Premier League title challenge has not been helped by a long list of injuries this season, although Pellegrini has been at pains to play down suggestions that he is over-reliant on captain Vincent Kompany and striker Sergio Aguero.
His team did at least prove on Tuesday that they can be prolific without Aguero, who continues to struggle with a heel injury sustained against Southampton two weeks ago.
Defensively, however, City do look defensively vulnerable without Kompany, who has not played for more than a month because of a calf problem.
The Belgium centre-back has missed six matches in that time, and his team have not kept a clean sheet in any of them; a remarkable contrast to the side who did not concede in any of their opening five matches when Kompany and Mangala played together at the back.
That poor defensive record may at least give hope to a Swansea side who sacked Garry Monk on Wednesday after a run of just one win in 11 Premier League matches.
Under Monk, the Swans were fourth at the end of August, but looked increasingly bereft of attacking ideas as they tumbled down the table to 15th, failing even to muster a shot on target during his penultimate match in charge, a 1-0 defeat at Liverpool a fortnight ago.
That was followed by a tame performance in a 3-0 defeat at home to leaders Leicester last Saturday, prompting chairman Huw Jenkins to act.
First-team coach Alan Curtis is set to take temporary charge for the trip to the Etihad Stadium, as Jenkins and his board step up a search for Monk's permanent replacement.
Curtis will hope for a better display than the one against Leicester that ultimately cost Monk his job, and prompted midfielder Leon Britton to apologise to Swansea's supporters.
“It was one of the worst performances I have seen from ourselves in a long time,” Britton said.
“There are so many things we can talk about, but the talking has to stop when the players cross that white line.”