Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry feels the defending champions are hitting top form at precisely the right time ahead of today’s visit to Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League.
City travel to Loftus Road 24 hours before league leaders Manchester United host Southampton, with the opportunity to cut the deficit at the top of the table to two points.
An impressive victory at Arsenal in their last league outing was followed by a thoroughly professional performance as City advanced to the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win at Stoke City.
That result marked City’s sixth successive victory in all competitions, although Barry concedes that for the 2011 FA Cup winners, the main focus is now upon defending their league title and overhauling United’s lead.
“We’re back to our league-winning form,” said Barry.
“The gap (to United) was there, so we can’t afford to let that grow any more if we want to end up champions again, so the lads have really knuckled down.
With Yaya (Toure) going (to the Africa Cup of Nations), it made it a bit tougher, but we’ve really got together as a team and got some fantastic results.
“Obviously Stoke was a fantastic win. Not too many teams come here and win,” he added.
The loss of the influential Toure, along with Kolo, might have been seen as a disadvantage for Roberto Mancini’s side, but has instead coincided with City’s best run of the season.
“We’ve obviously gone on a great run since Yaya’s gone,” added Barry.
“He’s obviously going to be missed and last season we felt (his absence) a little bit, so maybe this year we’ve learned from that.
“We’ve upped our game and we’re on a great run, so if we can keep on winning games while he’s away, then it’ll only add to the depth of the squad when he returns. I think that’s ideal for a long season. If people can play in different positions, it gives the manager different options,” he said.
Part of that adaptation was due to the loss of captain Vincent Kompany during the match against Stoke to a calf injury that will sideline him against QPR, although fellow centre-half Matija Nastastic, rested at Stoke due to injury, should return.
The visit of the reigning champions will provide a testing challenge to a QPR side still smarting from their humiliating FA Cup exit at the hands of League One Milton Keynes Dons.
The 4-2 home defeat prompted manager Harry Redknapp to deliver a furious appraisal of his team’s performance, saying it highlighted why he needs to change some of the personnel in his squad in the transfer window.
The loss to MK Dons came at an unfortunate time, with QPR having gone on a four-game unbeaten league run that has strengthened the belief they can pull away from the foot of the table.