Mancini remains defiant, Berbatov out
Stumbling Manchester City will still retain the title despite some early-season problems, coach Roberto Mancini said on Friday as he prepares for Saturday's tricky away game at Fulham (1400).
Seventh-placed City are unbeaten in the league but have failed to win in four games and have drawn three of their opening five in the Premier League - leaking goals.
"We will win the title," Mancini told a news conference.
"It is more difficult in the second year, but we will win the title," he said. "There are some moments where maybe you don't play well, the other team plays better than you or you are unlucky. This is one of those moments. You need only to stay calm and work hard."
Mancini said it was his attack that was as much to blame as the defence for the sluggish start.
"We have conceded only two goals more than (at this stage) last year and maybe we have scored less," he said.
Samir Nasri could return after missing last week's 1-1 draw against Arsenal with a hamstring injury.
Fulham forward Dimitar Berbatov is out of the game through injury, the London side said on their Twitter feed.
Manchester United's "terrible time" with injuries to defenders will allow some of the squad's youngsters to stake a claim for Premier League roles, starting at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (1630), manager Alex Ferguson said.
With Nemanja Vidic ruled out after knee surgery and Chris Smalling still sidelined, Ferguson called up Scott Wootton for Wednesday's League Cup win over Newcastle United and was clearly impressed with what he saw.
"We had bad news earlier in the week about Nemanja. It's a blow. We're having a terrible time with defenders at the moment," he told reporters.
"On Wednesday, we played two young boys and they did very well. Scott Wootton reads the game well, passes the ball well and, having seen him in a situation against very experienced players, he did very well. He'll be involved tomorrow."
Antonio Valencia is doubtful with an ankle injury but Wayne Rooney is set to return to league action for the first time since suffering a bad cut in August after impressing in midfield against Newcastle.
Brad Friedel will return in goal for Tottenham at Old Trafford after being rested for the League Cup victory against Carlisle United on Wednesday.
France keeper Hugo Lloris will again have to settle for a place on the bench, manager Andre Villas-Boas told reporters. Tottenham, without a win at Old Trafford since 1989, are still without striker Emmanuel Adebayor who has a hamstring injury.
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud hopes his first goal for the club since moving from Montpellier against Coventry City in the League Cup this week will open the floodgates.
"This goal has taken the pressure off me. It's done, I have my first goal. But it has to be the start of a beautiful adventure," he told Arsenal's website.
He will now set his sights on league leaders Chelsea in Saturday's home clash (1145).
"The Coventry result was the perfect win before Chelsea, a very important game. It brings a lot of confidence for me but also for the team," he said.
Luis Suarez believes Liverpool are due a change in luck as they try to kickstart their season at Norwich City on Saturday (1400).
Liverpool have two points from their opening five games but there were encouraging signs in the 2-1 defeat by Manchester United last weekend.
"I think we've been a bit unlucky at times, but we've been playing the kind of football (new manager Brendan Rodgers) wants us to play," the Uruguayan told the club website.
"What everyone clearly wants from now on is to pick up as many points as we can. Everyone is keen to turn the situation around and put an end to what's happened in the last few games."
Third-placed Everton will hope to hit back from losing to second tier Leeds United in the League Cup when they host Southampton on Saturday (1400).
Tony Hibbert, missing for the last two games with a calf problem, should return but Darron Gibson (thigh) is ruled out.
Former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United striker Michael Owen may have to wait a little longer for his first start for Stoke City.
Owen is likely to have settle for a place on the bench at home to Swansea City on Saturday (1400).
"It's a long, tough season, and there is no way we will be rushing him into things quickly which could put him at risk of picking up an injury," manager Tony Pulis told reporters.
Swansea, whose good start to the season has evaporated, will have defender Chico Flores back after serving a three-game ban while Nathan Dyer is available having served a one-match ban in midweek against Crawley in the League Cup.
Aston Villa will be without Stephen Ireland for the home clash with Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion on Sunday (1500)after manager Paul Lambert confirmed to reporters that he had broken a bone in his wrist.
West Brom, who have made their best start to a top-flight season for 58 years, are without suspended striker Peter Odemwingie. (