Last Updated: Sat, 23 Feb 2013 13:32
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini concedes last season's dramatic title success may have had a draining effect on his side.
City seemingly threw away their hopes of winning the Barclays Premier League a year ago, only to produce a remarkable late charge to snatch the crown from Manchester United's grasp.
This season they have struggled to match the intensity of that glorious campaign and their hopes of retaining their crown seem remote.
Mancini said: "I think the players always play 100 per cent. I don't think they play just 50 per cent, but this can happen with a team like us, that for 40-odd years didn't win a title.
"The year after a team wins a title, it could be that you don't play like when you won the championship, without the same intensity. Maybe you think, 'Okay we are strong, it's enough to play'.
"This can be normal, but I think the players always play at 100 per cent because they want to win the title.
"Until now, I think United have been better than us, but I think the only difference is that we didn't score enough goals."
City now face a critical match against third-placed Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium, in which defeat would not only hammer another nail into their challenge, but bring their position in second under threat.
Mancini is aware of the difficulties but his side did pull off a vital win over the Londoners under considerable pressure at home last March.
He said: "It was important but it's always difficult. They're a good team and have good players. They have had some problems but it's always difficult against them."
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