Liverpool V Man City at Anfield : Match Preview
Mancini: No Bellamy rift
Manager Roberto Mancini insists he never had major issues with Craig Bellamy and would be pleased to see the striker prosper at Liverpool. The Wales international rejoined Liverpool in August after being told he did not feature in Mancini's plans. Bellamy shone for the club early in his City career but started to fall out of favour after the appointment of Mancini in December 2009. He spent last season on loan with npower Championship side Cardiff and later revealed how he and Mancini had differed in their opinions of his best training schedule.
The 32-year-old has a long-standing knee problem which requires careful management. Bellamy could now face his former club as the Barclays Premier League leaders travel to Anfield on Sunday and he appears in good form after impressing in last week's win over Chelsea. Mancini said: "I am not surprised, Bellamy is a good player. I am happy for him because he played very well. He is in good form. "He was fit often but because we had three or four strikers it was difficult for him."
City have a poor recent record at Anfield having not won in their last eight visits.
Mancini considers the 3-0 defeat there last April, when Andy Carroll struck twice, as one of the worst performances of his reign. The Italian said: "It was poor, but it was one week before the FA Cup semi-final. We changed three or four players but Liverpool deserved to beat us."
This time City travel as impressive leaders of the Barclays Premier League having won 11 of their 12 matches, although they will be keen to recover from this week's Champions League setback. City were beaten 2-1 at Napoli on Tuesday to leave their chances of reaching the knockout stage out of their hands. Mancini said:
"We have started the Barclays Premier League very well but we know it will be a difficult game. "The season will be very long. Every two or three games can change the situation. I hope we continue to win and continue to score. "I am satisfied but I don't think we can win all the games. Everyone thinks we can win all the games but this is difficult."
Striker Mario Balotelli is fit having recovered from the fever which made him sick during the game in Naples. City have no other injury concerns for a game which falls on Mancini's 47th birthday. "I hope my players can give me a gift," he said.
Winger Stewart Downing insists Liverpool are not in the habit of making big statements but believes the visit of Manchester City holds no fear for Kenny Dalglish's side. The unbeaten leaders arrive at Anfield as the top flight's top scorers, with their array of attacking talent having torn apart defences this season. However, they suffered a morale-sapping defeat against Napoli and with Liverpool buoyant having won at Chelsea last weekend, Downing said the squad's confidence is high but their arrogance is not.
"I think we should look forward to it and say 'Why can't we be the first team to beat them?"' he said. "It's a great incentive for us. Obviously they are coming off a defeat in Napoli so they will be right up for it. "They are a top team with many, many great players, not just in the 11 but on the bench. We are going to have to be right up for it and start well. If we don't they will punish you, which they have shown against the top teams this season."
Downing added on liverpoolfc.tv: "It has the makings of a cracking game. We are at home at Anfield so I'm confident we can get a result. "But we have belief in our own ability and confidence is flying, especially the way we won the game (against Chelsea) because it was difficult circumstances in the second half and we nicked it right at the end. "Training has been really intense and we are really looking forward to the game. "Inside the club we have the belief that we have a really good team but we have quietly gone about our business and got some good results. "We made a big statement on Sunday by beating Chelsea on their home turf and they don't lose there very often. We are going about our work quietly and that's the best way to do it."
Downing will be pushing for a recall having been dropped last week after starting the first 11 league matches, but manager Kenny Dalglish is likely to keep changes to a minimum. Defender Jamie Carragher, who returned to the squad at Chelsea but could only make the bench, may have to settle for a place among the substitutes again. Captain Steven Gerrard is still not fit to return from an ankle infection.
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