Barry hails Man City's 'title-winning' form
Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry feels the defending champions are hitting top form at precisely the right time ahead of Tuesday's visit to Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League.
City travel to Loftus Road on Tuesday, 24 hours before league leaders Manchester United host Southampton, with the opportunity to cut the deficit at the top of the table to two points.
An impressive victory at Arsenal on their last league outing was followed by City turning in a thoroughly professional performance as they advanced to the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win at Stoke City on Saturday.
That result marked City's sixth successive victory in all competitions, although Barry concedes that for the 2011 FA Cup winners, the main focus is now upon defending their league title and overhauling United's lead.
"We're back to our league-winning form," said Barry. "The gap (to United) was there, so we can't afford to let that grow any more if we want to end up champions again, so the lads have really knuckled down.
"With Yaya (Toure) going (to the Africa Cup of Nations), it made it a bit tougher, but we've really got together as a team and got some fantastic results.
"Obviously Stoke was a fantastic win. Not too many teams come here and win. I'm not too sure in my career if I've ever won here before, so it's a fantastic result."
The loss of the influential Toure, along with brother Kolo, might have been seen as a disadvantage for Roberto Mancini's side, but instead it has coincided with City's best run of the season.
"We've obviously gone on a great run since Yaya's gone," added Barry.
"He's obviously going to be missed and last season we felt (his absence at the Africa Cup of Nations) a little bit, so maybe this year we've learned from that.
"We've upped our game and we're on a great run, so if we can keep on winning games while he's away, then it'll only add to the depth of the squad when he returns.
"I think that's ideal for a long season. If people can play in different positions, it gives the manager different options. If everyone's fit, you can change against different teams, and we had to adapt against Stoke."
Part of that adaptation was due to the loss of captain Vincent Kompany during the tie to a calf injury that will sideline him against QPR, although fellow centre-half Matija Nastastic, rested at Stoke due to injury, should return.
Struggling QPR face further challenge
The visit of the reigning champions will provide a testing challenge to a QPR side still smarting from their humiliating FA Cup exit at the hands of League One Milton Keynes Dons.
The 4-2 home defeat prompted manager Harry Redknapp to deliver a furious appraisal of his team's performance, saying it highlighted why he needs to change some of the personnel in his squad during the remaining days of the transfer window.
The loss to MK Dons came at an unfortunate time, with QPR having built up momentum in recent weeks with a four-game unbeaten league run that has strengthened the belief they can pull away from the foot of the table.
Redknapp will make changes after fielding a number of fringe players on Saturday, but returning striker Bobby Zamora is not fit to start.
"We've improved beyond all recognition in recent weeks," said Redknapp.
"We've got to pick ourselves up now. I'll bring the lads back in who didn't play today (Saturday) for what is going to be a tough week ahead with Man City on Tuesday night and Norwich on Saturday."