Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has put aside his obvious sorrow at losing Mario Balotelli to prepare his team for a pivotal month in the title race.
The champions enter February trailing rivals Manchester United by seven points at the top of the Barclays Premier League but Mancini believes the deficit can be wiped out in the coming weeks.
City have had a difficult week after being held to a goalless draw at QPR and accepting that after two-and-a-half years of trying to coax the best out of Balotelli, selling the fiery striker was in everyone’s interests.
But now Mancini only wants to look forward and haul his side back into contention for more title success.
The Italian, whose side host Liverpoolm on Sunday, said of the United’s lead: “This doesn’t change (anything).
“I think when we arrive at the end of February, the gap will be very, very small.
“In every championship, never one team won a title in January. We should fight until April.
“If they have seven, eight, nine points (lead) in April, it could be difficult, maybe. But in this moment we have a big chance.”
Mancini, speaking at a press conference, also devoted considerable time to a discussion about Balotelli, who joined AC Milan in a reported £19million deal earlier this week.
The City boss claimed the club were not happy to see the fiery and unpredictable striker, in whom they had invested so much faith, move on and that the decision to sell was not easy.
There was a feeling among some observers that Balotelli’s extraordinary headline-grabbing capacity was a distraction that far outweighed his value on the field.
But Mancini, who was both the 22-year-old’s fiercest critic and staunchest ally, felt the parting of the ways was a reluctant one.
He said: “We are not happy because I think he did well.
“Maybe not in the last three or four months because he had a big problem with injuries, but he did well because he helped the team win the Premier League and the FA Cup.
“We are sad for this but this is football.
“It was difficult, it was only my decision. I am here, (for) the club and Mario. Also for Mario to go back to Italy to play for Milan was important.
“I believe in him and I believe to go back to Italy after two years in England is important.”