Manchester City’s Yaya Toure: ‘We know we’ve got to keep pace with Chelsea’
Manchester City star Yaya Toure has insisted criticism of his performances won’t distract him from concentrating on helping the champions overhaul leaders Chelsea in the Premier League title race.
Ivory Coast midfielder Toure scored the opening goal with a typical 20-yard strike as City leapfrogged Southampton into second place with a 3-0 win at Saints’ St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday.
City are now six points adrift of Chelsea heading into their trip to Sunderland on Wednesday.
The 31-year-old Toure has had a difficult few months, including having to cope with the death of his brother, but he is now focused solely on football.
“For me the most important thing is I try to do my best for the team,” said Toure. “Sometimes people are not thinking we are human beings, people are always trying to criticise you even though you are a human being.
“So I never think about those things, I always try to focus on my team.”
He added: “The Premier League is important, and whenever we lose we will get criticised.
“But we’ve just got to fight until the end; our squad is fantastic and we know exactly how to fight all the way in this league.
“Teams will always step up their game against us and we know we’ve got to try to keep pace with Chelsea.”
City will head to the northeast to face a Sunderland side fresh from holding Chelsea to a goalless draw at the Stadium of Light last weekend.
“Wednesday will be tough, we have always been unlucky at the Stadium of Light,” said Toure.
“They are very compact, strong at the back and have a great counter-attack, and we know our old teammate (Adam) Johnson will come at us very well.”
Having struggled during the latter half of October and beginning of November – they were beaten at home by CSKA Moscow in the Champions League and Newcastle United in the League Cup while they lost away to West Ham United and drew at QPR in the league – City have picked up recently with three straight wins.
“Three or four games winning in a row is very good for confidence,” added Toure.
“It was a fantastic result for us (at Southampton), they’ve been scoring a lot of goals at home.
“We showed fantastic work as a group, realising that we need to work hard when we don’t have the ball, realising that we have to be good defensively to win games like that.”
Toure’s teammate Fernandinho, meanwhile, is in no doubt Manchester City are brimming with confidence and determined to record a fourth successive victory to keep the pressure on Chelsea.
“This is a new time for us, and from now until the end of the season I think you will see a different Manchester City,” said Fernandinho ahead of the trip to Sunderland.
“We didn’t start very well this season but now we’re playing much better. Now we need to keep at this quality for the whole year.
“This win was also a very important victory because this week has been quite tough for us, and this title fight is massive. When you win against a team that is above you, it is much better,” he added.
“We go into the next game at Sunderland with more confidence, and we are looking to win again.”
City could be without both of their first-choice central defenders for the trip to the Stadium of Light, however.
Eliaquim Mangala is suspended after being sent off during the victory against Southampton, and captain Vincent Kompany is a major doubt, having left the field injured on Sunday.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini revealed the Belgian defender had suffered a hamstring injury but does not yet know the severity of the problem.
The absence of Mangala, the £32 million (Dh184.9m) pre-season signing from Porto, and Kompany would leave City short on options at the heart of their defence.
Martin Demichelis is almost certain to come into the starting line-up in front of another 40,000-plus attendance at Sunderland’s Wearside home.
The Argentinian would be partnered by either Bacary Sagna – whose natural position is right-back – or Dedryck Boyata, a 24-year-old Belgian who has made just seven Premier League starts in five years for City.
Fernandinho was confident City would cope with the changes in defence.
“We have two important players out but I am sure the boss will find another player to cover that position.
“The most important thing will be playing as a team, even without two important players.”
Meanwhile Sunderland will hope to remain unbeaten for a fifth straight game.
The club, beaten by City in last season’s League Cup final, earned plaudits for their defensive display in holding Chelsea to a 0-0 draw at the weekend.
But Sunderland’s former City midfielder Adam Johnson said they would look to attack Pellegrini’s side at every opportunity.
Sunderland have beaten Manchester City 1-0 at home in each of the last four seasons, and haven’t lost to them in front of their own fans for more than six years.
“You only have to look at the players they have in their squad to see it will be a difficult game,” Johnson said.
“But we’re up for the challenge against them just like we were last season, and maybe we can catch them off guard once again.”
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Published: December 2, 2014 04:00 AM