Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has urged his players to "stay strong" following their first Premier League defeat of the season.
After enjoying such a sensational start to the campaign, City are finally experiencing a significant wobble. Dumped out of the UEFA Champions League by Napoli, they were on the wrong end of a comeback win by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last night despite getting off to the perfect start thanks to Mario Balotelli.
Strange as it may have appeared a couple of weeks ago, City might have been knocked off top spot by Manchester United when they walk out to face in-form Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. That in itself would bring added pressure to Mancini and his men, who remain among the favourites to clinch their first championship since 1968.
However, the Italian is not giving off any sense of self-doubt, and he expects his players to adopt the same attitude. "At this moment, we should be very strong," he said. "It is at these moments that you become stronger, as players and a team. For this reason, the result is a lesson for us."
Given their performances last term, and how they played for 25 minutes last night when they could easily have swept Chelsea away, it is hard to be too critical of City. However, there were echoes of the Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich in September, when City were also the better side, only to crumble when the going got tough.
As City have only lost once in the league and remain at the head of affairs, there is no reason for major recriminations. However, should the downturn continue this weekend, the heat will be on, even if the message from the Blues camp is one of confidence and unity.
"We are disappointed but now it is in the past," said midfielder James Milner. "The positive side is that we have another game coming up. We will be back in tomorrow, working as hard as we can. If it was possible to give even more then we would.
"The hunger is still there. If anything, there is even more incentive to bounce back with an even bigger performance at the weekend."