HE might not have been at the club last season, but Sunderland defender Danny Rose admits Martin O'Neill's men have a point to prove when they go to Manchester City on Saturday.

The Black Cats came agonisingly close to springing a surprise on the champions in March when they found themselves 3-1 up with five minutes left to play at the Etihad Stadium.

However, two goals in the space of one minute for Roberto Mancini's side meant Sunderland returned to the North-East with one point instead of three.

Rose, who has started Sunderland's last four games since joining on a season-long loan from Tottenham, remember watching the highlights of the game in March and reveals the squad have been talking about it this week.

"It's been a good couple of days in training," Rose said.

"We need to stay in the game (at Man City) for as long as possible, and not concede early on.

"I would say that City have probably got the best starting eleven in the league. They are all world class players.

"I actually remember the game they had last year when they were leading for a long time.

"As long as we can do the stuff on Saturday that the lads did last season we will give ourselves the best possible chance.

"I watched the game on Match of the Day and Sunderland played really well. The lads have been talking about that match this week, saying how unlucky they were.

"It's safe to say that when we play our best football then we can do well against anyone."

Controversial striker Mario Balotelli grabbed two of City's goals that day and Rose is looking forward to competing against the Italian - should he play.

He said: "I have to be honest with you; I like him.

"He is definitely entertaining and, for me, the most entertaining thing he's done so far is when he took off his shirt after scoring for Italy against Germany in the European Championship semi-final.

"I like the guy. He does get a bit of negative press, but I don't know, that might be a sign that everyone secretly likes him.

"I do get a buzz from playing against people like him and the other City players.

"You should always want to raise your game against the champions. It's also early kick-off because it's on Sky so a lot of people will be watching. It's a massive game."

Balotelli might have grabbed the goals that day, but Sunderland have their own in-form striker for City to deal with.

Steven Fletcher has scored all of Sunderland's league goals this season - five in total - but Rose insists the side shouldn't rely solely on the Scotsman.

He said: "We know, and the gaffer has mentioned this in the press, that we all need to start chipping in with goals.

"Although if we can keep Fletch firing as we have been doing, and continue to do the things we have been doing right, then we'll do ourselves no harm.

"The gaffer didn't have to sit us down and tell us that we needed to chip in with more goals because we know that ourselves.

"The boys know that we can't always rely on our number nine as it were to score us goals through the whole of the season. We are pleased that we've been able to provide the service for Fletch to get the goals and even more grateful that he's been able to put away his chances.

"What did I know about him before I got here? I knew he scored more goals with his head than any other Premier League player last season when he was with Wolves.

"I had met him a few times, away from football, and he always seemed a nice guy. We were in the hotel together up here as well and he helped me out.

"Fletch has been great for us out on the pitch. He holds up the ball really well, wins more than his fair share of headers and flick-ons. He's a top player."