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The league leaders were beaten with a sucker punch at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, and the Italian wants his team to wise up when faced against counterattacking opponents

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini hopes he can get his players back firing after a disappointing festive period.

Mancini is likely to recall David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli for Tuesday’s game with Liverpool, as he tries to put the disappointment of the previous two games behind them and get their season back on track.

City were held to a stalemate by West Brom on Boxing Day which was followed by a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Sunderland after they dominated the game for large parts but failed to take any of their chances.

The Italian is hoping the recent slump in form over the festive period will not have too great an effect on his players ahead of the visit of Liverpool tonight.

He told the Daily Mirror: “I hope it isn’t going to be difficult to pick the players up after the defeat.

“I hope they understand we are a top team and we can’t concede goals in the last minute on the counterattack like we did at Sunderland.

“But it is finished and we have to think about the next game.

“I hope the players can have a positive reaction. We lost a big chance to go three points clear of Manchester United.

“It was an important game but we have to start thinking positively about the Liverpool game and the future.

“We have 45 points and we have scored 53 goals, these are things to be positive about.”

City have been unbeaten at home for a year but Mancini is concerned about his side’s vulnerability on the break.

He added: “I’m not worried about us not scoring in the last couple of games.

“What I’m worried about is having players on the pitch who understand the situation when we’re vulnerable to a counterattack. We need to improve in this situation.

“We had chances to score but sometimes, when you can’t win a game, you must make sure you don’t lose it.

“We seemed to want to attack with 10 players and to do that’s impossible.”

City’s five-point advantage and superior goal difference have been wiped out by Manchester United but Mancini is hoping his side can push on and stay ahead of their local rivals.

“We’ve had a bit of bad luck, but things can soon change,” added the City boss.

“The players understand we’ve missed an important opportunity, but it’s vital they switch on for the next game now.

“We’ve got 45 points and scored 53 goals, and we need another 45 points in the second half of the season.

“I changed six or seven players because I trust all my players to come in and do a good job.

“It’s impossible to play with the same players all the time, especially when you play twice in 48 hours.

“Mario [Balotelli] had a little problem with his ankle so for that reason we left him in the stands.

“I hope he’s going to be okay for Liverpool. We don’t have any other injury problems.

“At the moment we have to go with the players we have got for the next few games.

“Maybe after that we can do something.”

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