Milner confident City can resume normal service against Sunderland
After losing 1-0 to Chelsea and drawing 0-0 at Norwich, City have failed to score in consecutive matches for the first time since manager Manuel Pellegrini arrived before the start of this season.
More importantly it has seen them slip to third in the league table, two points adrift of leaders Chelsea heading into the midweek programme.
Now Pellegrini`s men host Gus Poyet`s side in a dress-rehearsal for the League Cup final on March 2.
This match comes in the middle of a busy run for City, who host Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round before the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie against Spanish giants Barcelona.
England midfielder Milner believes the result against the resurgent Black Cats will be crucial.
"There`s a long way to go yet in the league. We`ve just got to keep going and keep playing the right way and we know the goals will come," Milner said.
"You see how tight the league is at the top and the bottom and everyone is scrapping for points and a win can make a big difference in your position in the league," he added.
"It`ll be a tough game and a lot different to the cup final because it`s at home but we need to bounce back from Norwich and make sure we`re ready to go."
With Fernandinho out with a knee problem, Milner was drafted into central midfield for Saturday`s trip to Carrow Road.
Now he hopes to be given a regular chance to play in an area where Pellegrini has used Yaya Toure and Fernandinho as a partnership all season.
"I think that`s my best position and where I enjoy playing," Milner explained. "You`re always in the thick of the action.
"All I can do is play as well as I can when I get that chance and hopefully get a few more chances in the middle as well and hopefully contribute to Manchester City winning a few trophies."
As well as Fernandinho, Pellegrini has other injury concerns ahead of the match against Sunderland.
Samir Nasri is not yet ready to return from a knee injury, Argentina striker Sergio Aguero is out for another couple of weeks with a hamstring problem and midfielder Javi Garcia is also sidelined.
Top flight survival remains the prime objective for Sunderland, although Vito Mannone concedes that whoever emerges victorious at the Etihad Stadium will gain a valuable psychological advantage for next month`s Wembley meeting.
The Black Cats are keen to bounce back from the 2-0 home defeat by Hull City that left them just a point clear of the bottom three and Italian goalkeeper Mannone said: "It will be a test at Manchester City, but a good one for us, even if they are really strong at home.
"They are scoring goals for fun and we will need to be at our best to defend really well. It`s going to be a tough game, but it will put something in our minds of what we`re going to do in the final."
Defeat by Hull, their first in five league games, stalled Sunderland`s recent revival but Mannone said: "We came back from a situation where everybody was thinking we were relegated and dead, and we`ve put ourselves in a situation where we`ve got a fighting chance."
Argentinian defender Santiago Vergini is set for a first Premier League start for Sunderland in place of Wes Brown, who starts a two-match ban for his red card against Hull.
AFP --------------------- ZEENEWS.com