Roberto Mancini has criticised the Premier League for scheduling the next round of fixtures in a way that means Liverpool will have two days' extra rest before their away game against Manchester City a week on Tuesday.
Liverpool are at home against Newcastle United on Friday night and City face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Sunday afternoon, giving Kenny Dalglish's players close to an extra 48 hours to recover for the match at the Etihad Stadium. Mancini, who watched with frustration here as his team failed to score for the first time in domestic football this season, said that he was "not happy" with the Premier League for giving Liverpool a clear advantage going into their game against City and one that could impact on the title race.
"I am disappointed only because we play 1 January and 3 January and Liverpool play 30 December and then 3 January against us. I think that at this moment this is not correct," the Manchester City manager said. "I'm not happy with this situation because two days [of rest] in this moment when we play every three days is not correct. Sometimes the fixtures can [be] better because to play one game after four days and for us after 48 hours can make a difference."
Mancini's post-match mood will not have been helped by the sight of Manchester United hauling themselves level on points with City at the top. He expects Sir Alex Ferguson's side to be three points clear after their home match against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. "I think United will win [their] next game and it's more difficult for us against Sunderland away and then within 48 hours again," he said. "But I'm confident we can do a good job by the end."
Although David Silva squandered a wonderful chance and Mario Balotelli and Sergio Agüero both threatened, City struggled to break down a West Bromwich Albion side who were tactically superb and thoroughly deserved a point. Albion might have come away with an even better result but Shane Long headed wide in the second half and Jerome Thomas hit a post.
"We don't keep many clean sheets, so it's good to do it against a side of City's calibre," said Hodgson, who believes that United have started to turn the screw in the title race.
"In some ways the riches are on the blue side of Manchester but to some extent the quality and talent are on the red side. City could virtually put out two Premier League sides and United have been unlucky with injuries. But the important thing is United beat Fulham 5-0 away in the week and have put five past Wigan today. They're flying."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Andrew Brannan
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