Roberto Mancini has urged Manchester City to "forget" the past two visits to Sunderland, which ended in last-minute defeats, as they look to maintain the pressure on Manchester United.
City lost 1-0 on both occasions and Mancini said: "I've forgotten everything about Sunderland. We lost the last two games there in the last minute. Always in the last minute. It's better that we don't think about what happened last time.
"Both games up there we've played very well, we had lots of chances to score. But we lost both games because we were trying to win in the last second. We were attacking and conceded on two counterattacks. That is our mentality. If we can play like we did last year we have a big chance. But we know it will be a tough game."
Martin O'Neill's side, who beat Southampton on Saturday to move to 15th, should feature Adam Johnson, who left City in the summer for Sunderland in a £10m deal.
Mancini, asked if he had any regrets about allowing the winger to be sold, said: "I didn't say to him to leave. Adam said he wanted to play always and for this reason I let him go. For me Adam was an important player but I understand the situation. He is young, he wants to play every game."
Regarding the defeat last season at the Stadium of Light which came from Ji Dong-wong's 93rd-minute strike, Kolo Touré said: "It was a really painful defeat. It will be tough again; if we can score an early goal that will make it easier for us. When you score a goal that opens things up and you have more chance to score the second goal. That leaves more space but for other teams a draw is a good result against City."
Mancini's side are still struggling to rediscover last season's title-winning fluidity and Touré's brother Yaya believes this is because they have become a prime scalp for opponents. "Every game is tough – every side we play wants to beat us because we are the Premier League champions – so to confirm our status we have to be at our best each time we play but nobody makes it easy for us," he told City's match-day programme. "But that's why I love football. There is always a challenge and always a puzzle to solve and when you get past that it's very rewarding. You have to use your skill intelligence and strength to improve to overcome each obstacle that is placed before you."
In City's 1-0 win over Reading on Saturday, Yaya Touré began in a more advanced position than his usual defensive midfield berth. Which does he prefer? "It all depends on which tactic the boss wants to play," he said. "Last year I tended to play beyond the striker more often because Carlos [Tevez] tended to drop deeper, but this season I have been playing in a more withdrawn role because you can't forget we have David Silva and Samir Nasri as attacking midfielders – plus two strikers – so if I join as well that means its going to be tough on someone like Gareth Barry and the defenders who are then faced with a possible counterattack. It's all about keeping the right balance in the team.
"I remember when we played Napoli last season [in the Champions League]. They came to defend and make things difficult and it was tough for us. I did a couple of runs forward and each time Barry, [Joleon] Lescott and [Vincent] Kompany were left exposed when they counterattacked. We were one goal down and we had to chase the game a little and it meant Napoli had another two good chances to score."
Yaya Touré's goal in the 3-2 derby defeat at home to Manchester United this month was his sixth in 24 appearances this season, yet despite this ratio of a strike every four games there is a sense that his performances have not been as consistent as last year.
But the Ivorian is content with his play. "I think my form is good," he said. "We have to control the game so I see a lot more of the ball whereas last season teams came to attack us and we could pick them off."