Belfast Telegraph

We won't let up after title victory, says Fernandinho

By Pete Oliver

Manchester City's Brazil international Fernandinho expects the Premier League champions to live up to that mantle better than they did the last time they held it.

City's defence of the title they won in 2012 was a laboured effort under previous manager Roberto Mancini as they allowed Manchester United to finish 11 points clear at the top of the table.

Mancini was subsequently sacked in May last year, with City going on to regain the crown last season under Manuel Pellegrini in Fernandinho's first year at the Etihad Stadium.

Despite not being around for the last defence, the former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder believes City will not repeat the mistakes which brought off-the-field distractions and an apparent weakening of the bond between Mancini, the players and the club's owners.

"The first season in the Premier League everything was new to me. Now we will play as the champions. I think it will be a little bit different to last season," said Fernandinho.

"The most important thing is that we have to prepare, every week, every game, to show again our best performance, to show our football, and defend our title.

"Some people say a lot about this, that when teams win the title it is normal to relax a bit the following season. But our first game of the season against Newcastle showed that will not happen again.

"We will try to maintain the same performance level as last season. It is important we don't relax."

City started with a 2-0 win at St James' Park and tonight open their home programme against Liverpool. They faced Brendan Rodgers' side only four months ago, a dramatic 3-2 defeat at Anfield seeming to tilt last season's championship towards Liverpool.

"After that game a lot of people said the title race was over and we had lost our chance to win it," added Fernandinho. "But at that moment we kept 'cold' minds. We said, 'We can still do it', even though we lost, because Liverpool still have to win four or five games more.

"I can remember it well. The fight for the title in the last month of the Premier League was amazing, especially for us because we won our last five games to win the title.

"It was a good experience for me in my first season in the Premier League to fight to the very end with a big team like Liverpool and I hope we can do the same again this season," he added.

Boss Pellegrini is convinced the champions still boast the strongest squad in the league.

The Chilean said: "I think we always have to be better, we have to improve every season. It doesn't matter what happens with the other squads.

"Here in the Premier League you always have four or five strong teams that can win the title and if we want to continue winning titles, of course, we must improve. But I always say my players are the best players in the Premier League and we have the strongest squad, not only attackers but also defending, and in the whole squad.

"Other teams also have strong squads but if you are analysing the players I prefer mine."

City are not expected to give a debut to defender Eliaquim Mangala, with the £32m signing from Porto being given more time to get up to match fitness, while Frank Lampard is also not yet in first-team contention.

However, Sergio Aguero could start in attack.

Belfast Telegraph

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