Mancini vows to cut the gap in February
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has put aside his obvious sorrow at losing Mario Balotelli to prepare his team for a pivotal month in the title race.
The champions enter February trailing rivals Manchester United by seven points at the top of the Barclays Premier League but Mancini believes the deficit can be wiped out in the coming weeks. Mancini only wants to look forward and haul his side back into contention for more title success.
The Italian said of United's lead: "This doesn't change (anything). I think when we arrive at the end of February, the gap will be very, very small. In every championship, never one team won a title in January. We should fight until April. If they have seven, eight, nine points (lead) in April, it could be difficult, maybe. But in this moment we have a big chance."
Mancini, speaking at a press conference to preview Sunday's clash with Liverpool, also devoted considerable time to a discussion about Balotelli, who joined AC Milan earlier this week. The City boss claimed the club were not happy to see the unpredictable striker, in whom they had invested so much faith, move on and that the decision to sell was not easy.
The City boss said: "We are not happy because I think he did well. Maybe not in the last three or four months because he had a big problem with injuries, but he did well because he helped the team win the Premier League and the FA Cup. We are sad for this but this is football.
"It was difficult, it was only my decision. I am here, (for) the club and Mario. Also for Mario to go back to Italy to play for Milan was important. I believe in him and I believe to go back to Italy after two years in England is important."
City now have just three senior frontline strikers in Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko. Other options include reserve team youngsters Marcos Lopes and John Guidetti. Yet given Balotelli's recent form - he had been a peripheral figure this season, scoring only three goals - Mancini does not feel he is short of options.
Mancini, who also revealed he made no attempt to strengthen his front line before the transfer deadline, said: "Now we have three strikers. We have only Premier League and FA Cup, I think that could be enough."
One top-line striker City will have to combat this weekend is Luis Suarez, who has scored 22 goals for Liverpool this term and was linked with £40million switch to the champions earlier in the season.
Mancini said: "Suarez for me is a top player. I like him because he is strong, he works. For me he is one of the best in England."