Mancini expecting tough Reds test

Manchester City face their first away test as champions as they travel to Liverpool on Sunday.

Football News: Man City vs Liverpool

Roberto Mancini's side began the defence of their Barclays Premier League crown with a hard-fought 3-2 win over promoted Southampton last weekend.

City needed to come from behind to ensure a winning start after conceding twice in the second half at the Etihad Stadium.

It was far from the 4-0 stroll against Swansea with which City began last season and Mancini is not expecting things to get any easier at Anfield.

"We always play a tough match in the second game," said the Italian, whose side held off Bolton 3-2 in their second outing last term. "Liverpool will be a very strong game."

"I think Liverpool will fight for the title this year because they play well, they bought good players, they have a good manager and they have changed their style of play.

"Every game you play at Anfield is really tough.

"They come from a game against West Bromwich where they didn't deserve to lose but football is strange. For this I think it will be a hard game."

"They can have a problem in the first month like all teams when they change the manager or some players, but I think they have a strong team for the title.

"When Liverpool play at home it is always difficult for the opponents."

Liverpool caused City problems last term as the sides fought out a 1-1 league draw at Anfield before the Merseysiders beat Mancini's men in the League Cup semi-finals.

The Reds have opened their campaign badly, crashing 3-0 at West Brom in new manager Brendan Rodgers' first league game in charge, but Mancini feels his own men must step up.

"We played a bad game, we were not a team," he said of the Southampton match.

"We were 10 players that tried to score. We showed our character but we didn't play as a team.

"This could be normal in the first game but if we want to win, we have to play as a team."

City will be without last season's top scorer Sergio Aguero, who suffered a knee injury early in the opening win but is not likely to be missing as long as first feared.

That has not stopped Argentina naming him in their squad for their World Cup qualifiers on September 7 and 11, as is their right under international rules, but Mancini says he will not be fit enough to play.

He said: "Maybe after the international break he will be ready - three or four weeks.

"It's a bad knee injury but not for six months - two or three weeks.

"After two weeks he can start to train maybe and in four weeks he can play, maybe."

In his absence fellow Argentinian Carlos Tevez, rejuvenated after last season's problems, is likely to continue to lead the line.

Midfield talisman Yaya Toure is confident City can cope with the challenges facing them this season.

The Ivory Coast international said: "The Premier league is not easy, it is going to be very tough this year.

"But I have full confidence in my team-mates, we always fight and try to win games."

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