Mancini calm as pressure mounts on City
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini admits his team are finding life tough at the top - but would not expect anything different.
City have led the Barclays Premier League since October but have lost their thrilling autumn momentum and been unable to pull away from champions and arch-rivals Manchester United.
Mancini's men endured a particularly tough January as they were beaten twice in the league and knocked out of both domestic cup competitions.
Their latest defeat, at Everton on Tuesday, left them ahead of United only on goal difference.
It has been suggested Mancini and his players could be buckling under the pressure but the Italian insists that is not the case as all teams encounter difficult patches.
He said: "We don't have any reason to have pressure. We never thought that we could win the title in January or February.
"The Premier League you can win at the end of April - not now.
"It is impossible to stay on the top for five months and not have any problems.
"It will not be easy to stay there, especially when you fight against United. United have been used to staying on the top for 20 years."
Mancini took the unusual step of blaming himself for Tuesday's 1-0 loss at Goodison Park.
Despite his dismal record against the Toffees - four defeats in five previous clashes with the Merseysiders - Mancini claimed he underestimated David Moyes' side.
Mancini said: "I always want to do well and sometimes this does not happen. Against Everton I probably didn't do my job very well. The players shouldn't have pressure because they have done very well up until now.
"We have scored 60 goals and have the best defence in the Barclays Premier League.
"For us it is important to go our own way and not think about the other teams. This championship depends only on us, not on others."
City are back in action as Fulham visit the Etihad Stadium.
Mancini was active on transfer deadline day in securing Chilean midfielder David Pizarro, 32, on loan from Roma until the end of the season.
Pizarro, who previously played under Mancini at Inter Milan, will increase options with Yaya Toure still at the African Nations Cup and Owen Hargreaves having so far failed to secure a place.
Martin Jol knows Fulham face a tough task but believes his side can frustrate the leaders.
The Cottagers face the unenviable task of trying to become the first side to take points off Mancini's side at the Etihad Stadium this season.
City have won all 11 home league matches and scored 34 goals in the process, although Fulham can be buoyed by the fact were the first team to take points off the Citizens this season.
While Jol downplayed the importance of the 2-2 draw back in mid-September, he believes his side have it within themselves to ask questions of the league leaders.
"I am not sure [what we can do differently to those 11 sides that have lost] because there were quite a few good teams going over there," the Dutchman said.
"Of course away from home they are good, but they are even better at home.
"We have to find a solution to give them a few questions.
"We did that in the second half at Craven Cottage, but in the first half [Sergio] Aguero and [David] Silva were a handful.
"If you remember, the manager took them off and we scored our two goals and could have even scored a winner after that.
"We took the first points off them and of course they have had a few disappointing matches, like Everton.
"We hope to do the same away from home. Every game is different.
"I can understand why managers go there and try and narrow the space and play compact, but sometimes maybe the solution is to play four attackers.
"Real Madrid, the best in Spain and top of the league by seven points, tried everything against Barcelona and still lost.
"So sometimes there is no solution but we will have a game plan, make a decision and we'll have to wait and see.
"For me the most important thing is to get this game out of the way. We will see after the game what the result will be."
Fulham go into the game off the back of a frustrating 1-1 draw with West Brom on Wednesday evening.
But their attack will be boosted by the return of Belgium international Mousa
Dembele after a hip problem, although Andy Johnson continues to miss out with a groin injury and new signing Pavel Pogrebnyak is waiting for clearance.
Steve Sidwell misses out after a hernia injury while Dickson Etuhu looks set to be welcomed back to the fold.