Belfast Telegraph

Barry relishing Chelsea showdown

Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry is preparing for a fierce tussle with Chelsea on Monday.

City may travel to Stamford Bridge as leaders of the Barclays Premier League but Barry has noted the Londoners' return to form over the past week. Chelsea followed up a win at Newcastle by producing their best performance of the season on Tuesday to crush Valencia and qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League.

City, by contrast, endured the disappointment of elimination from that competition, but Barry said: "It is set up for a great game on Monday. They have picked their form up and have had two great performances and two big wins. It is going to be a tough game for us at Stamford Bridge, it always is."

He added: "We are disappointed after Wednesday but we won the game so we can still go into the Chelsea game with confidence."

Monday's game is followed by a home clash with another of the Premier League's giants in Arsenal.

With an imposing January schedule ahead - which includes three games against Liverpool and further dates with Manchester United and Tottenham across three competitions - ambitious City are entering a critical phase.

January will be made tougher by the loss of midfield inspiration Yaya Toure - as well as his defensive brother Kolo - due to the African Nations Cup.

Manager Roberto Mancini believes his team will take some stopping if they can come through that period unscathed.

Mancini said: "We have done well but the season is long. Now we have two difficult games against Chelsea and Arsenal. I have said before the next two months will be important months.

"Yaya is an important player for us - we don't have any other players like Yaya. We will probably lose an important man for one month at a crucial moment. For this reason I think if we do well in January, and we are top after January, it will be difficult to lose."

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