Mancini: 'We will win the title'
Roberto Mancini has said he is unworried by Manchester City's stuttering form and declared: "We will win the title."
For the first time in the Italian's reign, City have failed to win in four games and have only claimed maximum points in two of their first five league matches.
City find themselves three points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea, but Mancini remains adamant that his team, who became champions for the first time in 44 years last season, will retain their crown.
"It is more difficult in the second year, but we will win the title," he said. "There are some moments where maybe you don't play well, the other team plays better than you or you are unlucky. This is one of those moments. You need only to stay calm and work hard."
City are yet to keep a clean sheet in any competition this season, and Mancini believes the disruption caused by Euro 2012 - which delayed some of his defenders' return to training - and late signings, with Maicon and Matija Nastastic only arriving on the final day of the transfer window, are contributory factors.
"We didn't work well in pre-season and we didn't have all the defenders," he said, pointing out that his side did not have a great defensive record at the start of last season. "We have conceded only two goals more than [at this stage of] last year, and maybe we have scored less," he said.
Samir Nasri is set to make a swifter than expected return for Saturday's game away at Fulham. The France international sustained a hamstring injury in the 3-2 Champions League defeat to Real Madrid, but is back in contention. However, Jack Rodwell, Micah Richards and Maicon all miss the trip to Craven Cottage.
"Samir is ok," Mancini added. "Jack is injured: he had a problem in the warm-up [against Aston Villa] and he is not available. Micah is in training but he is not ready, and Maicon [is out]."
Mancini believes the improvement of mid-table sides means the Premier League is ever harder this year.
He explained: "All these teams like Fulham, Sunderland and Stoke are better and every game will be more difficult than last year. Saturday will be a really tough game because they play really well."