Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Nastasic wants City to sharpen up

Matija Nastasic, left, helped Manchester City keep a clean sheet at Stoke

Manchester City centre-back Matija Nastasic accepts the team's defensive work needs to improve.

Despite clean sheets in the last two outings, questions have been asked about City's rearguard during what has been a mixed start to the season.

Issues emerged in the shock loss to Cardiff in the second game of the campaign, while the back line was also unconvincing in the victory over Hull a fortnight ago and Saturday's goalless draw at Stoke.

Injuries have not helped, with influential captain Vincent Kompany, new signing Martin Demichelis and full-backs Micah Richards and Gael Clichy currently sidelined.

Nastasic, who formed a makeshift centre-back partnership with midfielder Javi Garcia at the Britannia Stadium, also sat out the first two games.

The Serbian said: "We made some changes in the team - in defence we played Javi and me. It was the first time and I think we did a good job, but I think I can play much better.

"In defence, it is difficult when we change the partnership every game. We did a good job but we need to play a lot of games, then it is looking better and better."

City should soon be strengthened by the return of Kompany, who suffered a groin injury in the first game of the season.

The Belgian has a chance of making Tuesday's Champions League opener at Czech side Viktoria Plzen and should certainly be back in action for the derby against Manchester United next weekend.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini said: "We will see if he can play next Tuesday in the Champions League but I am sure he will arrive for the derby."

City were frustrated by an enterprising Stoke side in their latest Barclays Premier League outing and struggled to create meaningful opportunities.

Perhaps with an eye on the Champions League fixture, Pellegrini made six changes, five of them tactical, with Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Jesus Navas, Fernandinho and Joleon Lescott out of the starting line-up.

Alvaro Negredo was handed his first start in partnership with debutant Stevan Jovetic up front.

Jovetic had three opportunities but failed to extend goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

The best opportunities of the game fell to Stoke, most glaringly when Jonathan Walters headed wide from close range in the first half.

Joe Hart was worked by shots from Charlie Adam and Kenwyne Jones, who also headed narrowly over.

Hart also had to be alert to prevent Nastasic turning into his own net as the defender attempted to deal with a wicked ball from Marko Arnautovic.

Given Stoke's performance, visitors City were happy to accept a point.

Nastasic, 20, said: "For every team it is difficult to play here, for us as well. After the national team it is difficult because players are very tired.

"The manager is looking at who is fit for the game. We played with six different players. I think we played well but we need to improve and score a goal when we have the chance.

"This point is good for us and now we are looking forward."

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