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City eye top spot in trip to Fulham

Roberto Mancini believes Manchester City's trip to Fulham will examine his squad's ability to cope with challenging in the Premier League and the Europa League.

sports Updated: Sep 17, 2011 20:57 IST

Roberto Mancini believes Manchester City's trip to Fulham will examine his squad's ability to cope with challenging in the Premier League and the Europa League.

City head into the weekend second in the table behind neighbours Manchester United after four wins from their opening four matches.

They made their debut in the Champions League with a 1-1 draw with Napoli in midweek and, with United hosting Chelsea on Sunday, the game at Craven Cottage offers the chance to take control of the title race.

City have spent heavily in the three years since Sheikh Mansour took over but Mancini believes this will be a major test of the club's ability to deal with their increased expectations.

"It is important when you play like us -- like all the teams playing Premier League and Champions League -- you have time to recover between one game and another," Mancini said.

"It is important to recover very well. It is hard but this is football in 2011. I don't think it will be possible to win always, but we want to try to win.

"We know against Fulham it will be a very tough game because at home they are strong."

City have managed 15 goals in their opening four Premier League matches but Mancini believes his team could be even more prolific.

United, who have managed 18 goals, have played after City in each round of matches so far this season.

But Mancini, whose team put in one of their most impressive performances of last season with a 4-1 victory at Craven Cottage, maintains that his players are not frustrated at being pegged back by United.

"Man United are a top team, they have been used to winning for a long time. They have strong players.

"When they played against Arsenal, when they scored two or three goals, they continued trying to score. We need to have this mentality.

"If we have a game like Tottenham where we can score, we need to continue to try to play."

James Milner will be absent once again as he recovers from a head knock, while Nigel De Jong is still sidelined with a foot injury, but Aleksander Kolarov will be fit despite breaking his nose against Napoli.

Fulham go into the game on the back of their own European exploits, having drawn with Dutch team FC Twente in the Europa League.

The Londoners have picked up just four points in two matches since Martin Jol took over in the summer.

But captain Danny Murphy insists that Fulham can still beat the Premier League's best despite the two Manchester clubs' blistering start to the season.

"We know it is going to be difficult but we believe we can win the game because we've shown before that we can perform against good quality opposition, especially at the Cottage where there's always a good atmosphere," he said.

"So I say 'bring it on'. Everybody thinks the likes of United and City go out and win every week but the Premier League always throws up a few shocks and hopefully we can cause one.

"Playing Twente was a good dress rehearsal for City. Twente are not of the same quality but they play the same type of football as City. Their players are very technical, they play little one-twos, give and go."

Murphy also believes that Fulham's defence, which has not kept a clean sheet in the Premier League since the opening day, will have to be on form to contain City's incisive forwards.

"We know we're going to have to defend very well to get a result, because the one thing City have in real quantity is attacking flair. So it's going to need a hell of a performance from us," he said.

"However, you have to believe you can give them a game and win. Sometimes you see players go out against the big teams and they're finished before they even get onto the pitch."

Defender Aaron Hughes is struggling with a knee injury and midfielder Dickson Etuhu is doubtful with a thigh problem.

First Published: Sep 17, 2011 19:25 IST