City: Beating Chelsea will halt hysteria

LONDON - Manchester City can put a lid on what manager Mark Hughes describes as hysteria over their poor form when they host Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday.

City, who have spent more than 200 million pounds in the last year in a bid to break out of the shadow of champions Manchester United, have drawn seven games in a row to fall away after a strong start to the campaign.

Seven points out of 21 is hardly what Arab billionaire Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan would have envisaged in September when City beat West Ham United to move within three points of the top.

They are now 14 points behind Chelsea in seventh place but Hughes says talk of a crisis is premature.

"There's a little bit of hysteria and not for the first time. It's not something I lose sleep over," he told the club's website before Wednesday's 3-0 League Cup quarter-final win over Arsenal.

"We are still very much where we thought we would be at this stage. We've only been beaten once but there's a feeling we should have more points on the board. We can't dwell on that, we have to look forward.

"We're being judged on the money we've spent. But as a group we will get stronger as the season progresses. The quality and the strength in depth will allow us to do that," added Hughes.

City's recent record against Chelsea is abysmal. They have lost their last eight league matches against the London club and another defeat on Saturday would turn up the heat on the Welshman.

Chelsea have won their last five league games, scoring 17 goals and conceding none, although they were knocked out on penalties by Blackburn Rovers in Wednesday's League Cup semis.


Manchester United, who trail Chelsea by five points, know they cannot afford any slips at West Ham where they have suffered two defeats in their last three visits.

Manager Alex Ferguson will recall Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher who were rested for the 2-0 League Cup win over Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday.

Third-placed Tottenham travel to struggling Everton on Sunday while Arsenal are at home to Stoke City on Saturday.

Liverpool will hope to build on their Merseyside derby win at Everton last Sunday when they visit Blackburn although captain Steven Gerrard appears to have written off their title chances after losing five league games already this season.

"I think we have to be realistic," Gerrard told Talksport Radio as he prepared to make his 500th appearance for the club. "At the moment we're out of the title race but we will keep trying to get back in it.

"Chelsea are looking really strong at the moment but our main target is to get back in the top four. We're coming off the back of a fantastic win at Everton and we want to continue that against Blackburn and try and go on a run."