Dalglish stands in way of City bouncing back

After chastening defeat in Naples, Mancini's table-toppers must show character at Anfield

Has it honestly been only 219 days since Liverpool appeared to have brought the whole Manchester City edifice crashing down on Anfield?

After Carlos Tevez's hamstring lasted 15 minutes of his side's 3-0 league defeat in April, the scoreline of which did not tell the full story, Roberto Mancini reflected, rather desperately, that "we can't cry now; we have other players". It was also the night that James Milner's grudging departure when his number showed on a dot matrix board suggested that even those not predisposed to mutiny were potential malcontents in this squad, while Mario Balotelli became the first Mancini substitute to be substituted since Robinho – and everyone knew what had happened to him.

Mancini is certainly not crying for an Argentine, seven months later – you'll find no one in the Etihad Stadium boardroom discouraging Kia Joorabchian from urging Milan to sign Tevez – while Milner, or "ispirato", as one Neapolitan headline writer called him this week, has emerged as his manager's second finest asset of this season, behind David Silva and not far ahead of Balotelli. City have won 16 League games, drawn one and lost just one since that bitter night by the Mersey, which suggests that Mancini's team talk when he gathered his players 36 hours after it has worked. "Forget it," he told them, gesturing graphically that he wanted the memory literally to be thrown away.

Mancini, who is 47 tomorrow, was generous about Kenny Dalglish's side as he prepares for a return to the stadium which, as the place where he also publicly resigned the managership of Internazionale after an ignominious Champions League defeat in 2008, is surely not one of his favourite places. "Liverpool might be 11 or 12 points behind us but they have a team good enough to win the Premier League," he said. "It's a really strong team."

But the evidence of the season so far suggests this was flattery. Liverpool's journey since the sides met in April has been a rather less steady one. Andy Carroll, who scored his first two goals in a Liverpool shirt in that win, is yet to find the net at Anfield again. And while the contributions of Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson in last Sunday's 2-1 victory at Chelsea were encouraging, no one is getting too carried away with them.

Dalglish has also been left to muse over why his side have performed so modestly at Anfield this season. There have been three successive draws and another tomorrow would be the first time they have drawn four since a goalless stalemate with City in January 1971. "Our home record could be better," Dalglish admitted. "You are not going to dismiss it as a quirk. You have got to work at it and improve it."

Liverpool can take most encouragement from Craig Bellamy's glittering display against Chelsea. The Welsh striker has a habit of scoring against his former clubs – Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United and Norwich City will all tell you about it – and he has even more incentive to put one over City, given the very public way Mancini made it clear he was persona non grata in Manchester.

City, of course, also carry the baggage of Tuesday night's 2-1 defeat to Napoli, a result which had Mancini suggesting yesterday that his side are not among the top four in Europe. "We have to be realistic," he said. "I don't think we have a team to win the Champions League because Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Milan maybe are better and have more experience than us in the Champions League.

"But I hope we can stay in it because the Champions League can be strange. If you get to the second stage you can meet Apoel Nicosia or Bayer Leverkusen. You don't know what can happen." (That's two more potential opponents with an incentive to turn City over.)

Tomorrow brings the most stringent test of whether City have an esprit de corps to go with that dazzling array of talents, having lost just a little of their lustre in the Bay of Naples. Defeat to Bayern Munich in September was followed by nine straight wins, though as Mancini was honest enough to point out, a trip to Blackburn Rover followed the disaster in the Allianz Arena, which is not quite the same thing as Liverpool at Anfield.

Dalglish's side are unbeaten in nine games in League and cup, too, their longest run for three years, and Dalglish, much like Mancini, has built firm defensive foundations first. Liverpool share the best defensive record in the Premier League with City and Newcastle and in the current form of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel they have individuals whom City will need to be at their best to breach.

History is against City, who have won only once in their last 20 league visits. But it was Milner this week who pointed out that a seismic event five days after that April defeat at Anfield – the FA Cup semi final defeat of Manchester United – revealed how £800m of Sheikh Mansour's money has bought mental resilience as well as individual brilliance.

"With [defeats] like that it can go two ways," Milner reflected. "It's how you bounce back. We could have rolled over, gone to the semi-finals taking a big hit in confidence. From there, we could not have played as well and not have finished the season well. I think you saw that we know how to bounce back."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?