Mancini expects Man City reaction at Anfield
Roberto Mancini is certain that his Manchester City team can put their Champions League problems behind them to keep their Premier League push on track at Liverpool.
City's chances of reaching the knockout phase of the Champions League look slim after they lost 2-1 to Napoli in mid-week.
They now need to beat Bayern Munich in their final group game and hope that Villarreal, who have not picked up any points from their five matches so far, can draw with or beat Napoli.
But at least domestic matters look distinctly more positive, with City having won 11 and drawn one of their 12 Premier League matches this season.
City responded to their previous European loss, a 2-0 defeat at Bayern Munich in September, with nine consecutive victories and Mancini is sure his players can do the same against at Anfield.
He said: "I'm disappointed about the result in Naples but only that. We had 30 per cent more possession and 18 shots against 11. We tried to win the game.
"I believe that Villarreal can beat Naples or draw if they play well. It clearly depends on others teams now but I don't think it will have a knock-on effect.
"It will be a very hard game on Sunday because Liverpool might be 11 or 12 points behind us but they have a team good enough to win the Premier League. It's a really strong team.
"It's important we start the Premier League well. We know it will be a difficult game but I hope that we continue to win and score goals."
Mancini will come up against Craig Bellamy for the first time since the Welshman was released from the Etihad Stadium on a free transfer during the summer.
Bellamy, 32, spent last season on loan at Championship (second-tier) club Cardiff City after falling out with Mancini but the Italian manager insists he has no problems with his former player.
He added: "I'm happy for him. I watched the game against Chelsea and he played very well. If he's happy, I'm happy for him."
Carlos Tevez remains in Argentina after returning to his homeland without permission a fortnight ago but, other than Owen Hargreaves, Mancini has a full squad to select from at Anfield.
While City are in fine form in the Premier League, Liverpool have also produced some impressive performances in recent weeks and after last week's 2-1 victory at Chelsea, they could extend their unbeaten run to 10 matches against City.
Kenny Dalglish thinks his team's upturn in results is down to a defensive improvement.
He said: "I think we defended well (at Chelsea). Along with Man City, we now have the joint-best defensive record in the league so we must be doing something right.
"It's not just Pepe (Reina) and the lads at the back who are responsible for that. It's everyone.
"The game was our ninth without defeat in all competitions. That's a good response to the losses at Stoke and Spurs back in September.
"We'll just keep going now and see how far we can stretch this run."
Dalglish is still frustrated by his team's failure to reach the European places at the end of last season but he feels that the Reds have an advantage over City after having a clear week to prepare.
He added: "They're top of the league and are playing very well.
"Not being in Europe means we have a week to prepare for their visit. City had a Champions League game on Tuesday night and might make a few changes to their line-up.
"We'd much rather be in Europe than not be. But for us it's not about having the time to get ready, it's how we use that time to prepare.
We'll do that properly and see what the weekend brings."
Captain Steven Gerrard, who is missing with an ankle problem, remains Liverpool's only absentee.
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