Roberto Mancini has warned his Manchester City side they need to understand there is more to football than attack after being caught out in a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland. The Premier League leaders dominated possession but, as they piled forward in search of a winner, the Black Cats broke and snatched victory through Ji Dong Won's last-gasp goal.
City's loss was compounded by the knowledge that a win at the Stadium of Light would have put them three points clear of Manchester United, who were surprisingly beaten 3-2 at home to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. City face sixth-placed Liverpool, fresh from a 3-1 win over Newcastle United, at Eastlands tomorrow, and Mancini doesn't want them to make the same mistake twice in a row.
"I know football and for this reason, in the last 15 minutes I almost lost my voice shouting at the defence to hold their line and concentrate because of the danger Sunderland posed on the break," the Italian said. "We seemed to want to attack with ten players, and to do that is impossible.
"I don't know how many chances we had, but I'm not worried about not scoring in the last couple of games (City were held to a goalless draw by West Bromwich Albion in their previous outing on Boxing Day), but what I'm worried about is having players on the pitch who understand the situation when we're vulnerable to a counter-attack.
"We need to improve in this situation. We had chances to score but sometimes when you can't win a game, you make sure you don't lose it."
Mancini, who rested striker Mario Balotelli against Sunderland, added: "I hope it won't be difficult to pick the players up for the Liverpool game. This game is finished and we move on to the next game."
Sunderland have lost just one of their opening five matches under new manager Martin O'Neill, who was appointed after the sacking of Steve Bruce last month, and their win over City took them six points clear of the relegation zone.
"For us to win the game is extraordinary," said the former Celtic and Aston Villa manager. "City were camped outside our penalty area for the last 20 minutes, so for us to get players up in support when we broke was unbelievable. I feel for City now, even with their squad. They play Liverpool, who have had a day-and-a-half extra to rest up."
Gerrard relishing Etihad examination
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is in line for his first league start since 22 October. It follows the England international's impressive performance against Newcastle on Friday. Gerrard, who has missed a large part of the season due to an ankle infection, scored after coming off the bench to seal a 3-1 win.
The influential midfielder is relishing the opportunity of facing City in what is the first of three games against them in January, with a two-legged League Cup semi-final also on the horizon.
"Bring it on," said Gerrard. "They are a fantastic team who have started the season really well, but we've got nothing to fear. These are exciting games, we don't fear these. These are the games that, as a player, you want to play in. I can't wait."
Liverpool's form away from Anfield has been impressive this season, with Kenny Dalglish's side winning at Chelsea twice, as well as at Arsenal and Everton.
Gerrard said: "It's at home that we haven't got the results our football has deserved, but we will go to City full of confidence. We will give it our best shot and see where it takes us."
"For me personally, 2011 has been an absolute nightmare, but for the team it was great to finish it on a high. Now we need to push on, keep building and putting up a good fight for the top four."