MANCHESTER: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini believes rival teams are scared to play at Eastlands as his Premier League leaders ended 2011 with a 3-0 victory over Stoke.
Two goals from Sergio Aguero and one from winger Adam Johnson secured a routine three points which mean City have won 17 and drawn one of the 18 league games they have played at home in the calendar year 2011.
More than that, however, since December 2010 and a defeat against Everton, City have played 29 home games in all competitions, winning 27 of them and drawing twice -- against Fulham in the Premier League and Napoli in the Champions League.
Stoke's toothless and defensive performance, in which they failed to register a single shot on target against Mancini's side, showed how much opponents now dread a visit to play his club.
“It's the same thing that happens against (Manchester) United,” said Mancini. “All the teams that play against United play with fear and don't attack because United have been a top team for a very long time.
“Probably now, against us, some teams have a problem and they play in a different way. It's a great thing but sometimes it would be better to have a good, open match and have a good match for both teams.
“I'm happy to be at the top at Christmas, I'm happy for our supporters, they can have a good Christmas Day but I think it's important to stay there at the end of the season and this will be difficult.
“United continue to win every game, Arsenal and Tottenham. But it is better to be at the top then second.”
City's incredible home form is indicative of the major strides taken by Mancini and City in the two years since the Italian took over from Mark Hughes although the manager wants to see an improvement in his side's away form.
Mancini must take his team to West Brom and Sunderland over the holiday period, games which the demanding manager will expect to win if his side is to remain at the top of the Premier League summit into 2012.
“I am happy with our progress over the two years I have been here, we have improved a lot and worked very well,” he said.
“We're at the top but we're at a difficult moment if we are to stay at the top. We have to work more and have to believe in ourselves, always.
“It's not easy not to lose at home in the Premier League because every game is hard in this league.
“It is very important we continue to win at home. But it is important we start to win away again. The last two away games we only have one point and it is time to start again.”
Stoke manager Tony Pulis conceded his team did not punch their weight, although he also insisted that City's dominance underlined the fact that they should have been competing for the Champions League this season.
Ironically, a rare home slip-up -- the draw in group play against Napoli -- cost City a place in the last 16 and Pulis said: “You've just got to look at Man City's bench to see how tough it is for anybody to play against them and they must be distraught they are out of the Champions League.
“With the quality they have, the strength in depth they have, they would have run that competition close this season, never mind the (league) championship.
“They are contenders for everything they are in but you'd expect that, spending #240 million or whatever they have spent.”