City must maintain high standards - Hamann

September 17, 2007

Manchester City midfielder Dietmar Hamann insists the club must keep up their excellent start to the season at Eastlands to have any hope of qualifying for Europe.

The Blues are second in the Premier League after six games played, with Sven-Goran Eriksson having so far won three out of three at home with no goals conceded.

Michael Johnson was the match-winner for City against Aston Villa yesterday, as he was against Derby in their first home game, playing a neat one-two with Elano before jinking past Martin Laursen and shooting across the body of Villa goalkeeper Scott Carson in the 48th minute.

There is a real feelgood factor around the club but Hamann, who knows from his Liverpool days what it takes to be in and around the top four, offered some words of caution.

'It won't be easy. After 10 or 12 games you will see whether the big four make a move and obviously it's very difficult to stay up there,' the German said.

'Last year we had a very bad home record, and I think that's key this year - to pick up enough points and wins, get a few wins away from home.

'If we can do that we can stay in the top half. But I think we are going to have to wait until Christmas and see where we are then,' he told Sky Sports.

Johnson arguably had City's best three chances. His first-half shot was blocked by Carson and then late on another forceful run and shot required a block from Craig Gardner.

City boss Eriksson was glowing in his praise for Johnson and said: 'He was excellent. You can't say if his speciality is attacking, defending, passing, shooting, he can do all these things.

'That's very rare for a young man. How he took the goal, you must be mature to do that. He had one, two defenders coming at him and he was very calm.

'He is a very good football player and of course he will be better than that.'

Eriksson, who revealed his assistant Hans Backe had returned to Sweden because of a family illness, also expects Stephen Ireland to return to the City squad after being left out yesterday following his controversial withdrawal from Republic of Ireland duty in midweek.

'He is young. He's an extremely good footballer so we can't afford to lose him. When you are young you make some mistakes, you pay for them and life goes on. He will be ready for the next game, 100% I think so, he loves to play football.'

Villa boss Martin O'Neill was disappointed by his side's lack of cutting edge.

'We're frustrated. Off the back of a great performance against Chelsea, but the truth of the matter is that we didn't do enough.

'We should be able to create more with the players we have.'