Gareth Barry believes the pressure of being the defending Premier League champions is making life more difficult for Manchester City, both domestically and in Europe.
The 31-year-old midfielder was speaking after the club's remarkable comeback victory against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns at the weekend, saying that it is a situation the players must quickly become accustomed to.
Roberto Mancini's men have already dropped six points in the league this season, and have found the Champions League equally challenging, after collecting only one point from their opening two games against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
City now represent a major scalp for any of their opponents, and ahead of vital back-to-back European games against Eredivisie giants Ajax Amsterdam, Barry has issued a rallying call to his team-mates, urging them to improve on recent performances.
"It is a strange feeling having won the title last year and coming back," he is quoted by Sky Sports. "For a lot of the players it was the first title they had won, including myself.
"It's important - you need that desire, that work attitude to produce what you have done again but you are playing against teams week in, week out who are desperate to beat the champions.
"They are trying a bit harder than they were last season, they're playing the best team in the country. They are desperate to put one over you and that is what we are facing at the minute."
Next up for City in the Premier League is the home visit of Swansea City, at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday 27 October, 17:30.