city out to banish blues

LONDON - Manchester City can put a lid on what manager Mark Hughes describes as hysteria over their poor form when they host Premier League leaders Chelsea tomorrow.

LONDON - Manchester City can put a lid on what manager Mark Hughes describes as hysteria over their poor form when they host Premier League leaders Chelsea tomorrow.

City, who have spent more than £200million (R2,43billion) in the past year in a bid to break out of the shadow of champions Manchester United, have drawn seven games in a row to fall away after a strong start to the campaign. They are now 14 points behind Chelsea in seventh place but Hughes says talk of a crisis is premature.

"There's a little bit of hysteria and not for the first time. It's not something I lose sleep over," he told the club's website before Wednesday's 3-0 League Cup quarterfinal win over Arsenal. "We are still very much where we thought we would be at this stage. We've only been beaten once but there's a feeling we should have more points on the board."

City's recent record against Chelsea is abysmal. They have lost their past eight league matches against the London club and another defeat tomorrow would turn up the heat on the Welshman. Chelsea have won their past five league games, scoring 17 goals and conceding none, though they were knocked out of Wednesday's League Cup semis on penalties by Blackburn Rovers.

Manchester United, who trail Chelsea by five points, know they cannot afford any slips at West Ham tomorrow where they have been beaten twice in their past three visits.

Manager Alex Ferguson will recall Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher, who were rested for the 2-0 League Cup win over Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday.

Tottenham travel to struggling Everton on Sunday, while Arsenal are at home to Stoke City tomorrow.

Liverpool visit Blackburn though captain Steven Gerrard appears to have written off their title chances after losing five league games already this season. - Reuters

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