SUNDERLAND, United Kingdom (AFP) – Fernandinho is in no doubt Manchester City are brimming with confidence and determined to record a fourth successive victory to keep the pressure on Chelsea at the top of the Premier League.
The reigning champions have moved to within six points of Jose Mourinho’s leaders as they begin to discover a consistency they struggled to find in the early stages of the season.
City went second in the table with a 3-0 victory over Southampton, who were previously unbeaten at home, last weekend and Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho believes that result can serve as a statement of intent from Manuel Pellegrini’s team.
“This is a new time for us, and from now until the end of the season I think you will see a different Manchester City,” said Fernandinho ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Sunderland.
“We didn’t start very well this season but now we’re playing much better. Now we need to keep at this quality for the whole year.
“This win was also a very important victory because this week has been quite tough for us, and this title fight is massive. When you win against a team that is above you, it is much better,” he added, with City having leapfrogged Southampton into second place.
“We go into the next game at Sunderland with more confidence, and we are looking to win again.”
City could be without both of their first-choice central defenders for the trip to the Stadium of Light. Eliaquim Mangala is suspended after being sent off during the victory against the Saints, and captain Vincent Kompany is a major doubt, having left the field injured on Sunday.
Pellegrini revealed the Belgian defender had suffered a hamstring injury but does not yet know the severity of the problem.
The absence of Mangala, the 32 million-pound (US$51 million) pre-season signing from Porto, and Kompany would leave City short on options at the heart of their defence.
Martin Demichelis is almost certain to come into the starting line-up in front of another 40,000-plus attendance at Sunderland’s Wearside home. The Argentinian would be partnered by either Bacary Sagna – whose natural position is right-back – or Dedryck Boyata, a 24-year-old Belgian who has made just seven Premier League starts in five years for City.
Fernandinho was confident City would cope with the changes in defence.
“We have two important players out but I am sure the boss will find another player to cover that position.
“The most important thing will be playing as a team, even without two important players.”
Meanwhile Sunderland will hope to remain unbeaten for a fifth straight game. The Black Cats, beaten by City in last season’s League Cup final, earned plaudits for their defensive display in holding Chelsea to a 0-0 draw at the weekend.
But Sunderland’s former City midfielder Adam Johnson said they would look to attack Pellegrini’s side at every opportunity.
Sunderland have beaten Manchester City 1-0 at home in each of the last four seasons, and haven’t lost to them in front of their own fans for more than six years.