With four games left in the Premier League, Roberto Mancini is focusing on Saturday’s late kick off to retain the much coveted fourth place.
City suffered another crushing defeat to Manchester United last weekend, with the Red Devils again sneaking a late goal through Paul Scholes in the 93rd minute. Adding to City’s misery were Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale, who steered Tottenham to an unlikely 2-1 win over title favourites Chelsea.
Mancini’s men will look to bounce back on Saturday with a tough fixture against third placed Arsenal, at the Emirates. This is another tough tie for the Blues, who also have to play fellow Champions League hopefuls Aston Villa and Tottenham at home, followed by a final day fixture away to West Ham; who are likely to be fighting for survival. Mancini will hope his men can go the distance- with a World Cup looming, City’s annual late season demise and comical figure Garry Cook announcing a pre-season tour of America, his squad will have plenty on their minds aswel as the upcoming fixtures.
The City boss spoke out after the Manchester derby, stating that he was “angry with the result.” He has since reassured fans that things are back to normal and speaking ahead of Saturdays fixture said that “Arsenal are always dangerous – they are a good team, with good players and a good manager.”
Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor will return to their former club and both are likely to start, despite the controversy that the latter caused in the return fixture at Eastlands. Adebayor famously ran the length of the pitch to celebrate in-front of the travelling supporters, in retaliation to his treatment in his final months with the Gunners. City came out comfortable winners in September and will be hoping that Spurs slip up in the early kick off.
Micah Richards is likely to return for City after missing the last four games through a knee injury and midfield pitbull Nigel De Jong should shake off a knock. City’s only major absentee will be Argentine utility man Pablo Zabaleta, however Onuoha can cover following his sparkling recent form. Martin Petrov is certain to be sidelined for the rest of the season and is likely to have played his last game at the City of Manchester Stadium after falling out of favour this season. Another Eriksson signing, Javier Garrido, has also spoke out this week regarding his lack of first team action which he feels is preventing him breaking into the Spanish World Cup squad. Another who is unlikely to figure next season.
Arsene Wenger is hoping that Russian forward Andre Ashavin will return for the title run in, with the Gunners still having an outside chance if both Chelsea and Manchester United capitulate. In a week where the French boss has had to deal with further rumours that his young side is to be pulled apart by European Champions, Barcelona, Clichy and Fabregas have yet to be drawn on their futures. Wengers main selection concern comes in goal, with hapless Almunia injured and clueless Fabianski blamed for the defeat at Wigan, youngster Mannone may have to deputise.
Elsewhere, City’s main rivals Tottenham face Manchester United and Aston Villa have almost a tough a task against local rivals Birmingham. Outsiders for fourth place Liverpool face and away trip to Burnley, however Benitez is likely to continue to focus on the return leg of the Europa League Semi Final. City will be hoping that they can hit the goal trail once again, with Tevez having a quiet game against United, he inparticular will be looking to find the form that has pushed him into second in the goal rankings.
Given the weekends fixtures and the run in that Spurs face, City still look favourites for that much coveted Champions League spot. The deciding factor will surely be the clash between the two sides on May 5th, with City again having a slight advantage with the game to be played at Eastlands. Mancini will know that if he is to continue with the Blues next season, his tranfer kitty following the World Cup will need to be large given the calibre of player they will need to attract to maintain or build on such a position in 2011. Not to mention the inflated transfer fees that follow any international tournaments. Meanwhile in the short term, Roberto Mancini will be hoping that City can return to the form that saw them put six past Burnley and five past Birmingham.