There are two ways to digest Roberto Mancini’s assertions that Manchester City are out the Premier League title race as April approaches. They are either the words of a pragmatist or those of a defeatist. Looking at what they’ll have to achieve in order to topple Manchester United and earn a second top-flight crown you’d have to agree with the former. In defence of Mancini his players have seldom hit top gear this term and have far from resembled the devastatingly slick and allied unit that lifted the title Too many of his top players, Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany in particular, have failed to hit the standards set last season and while Mancini may come across as pessimistic in his surrender it is also an acknowledgement of how poor City have been across the board.
Alan Pardew can relate to his Italian counterpart. Newcastle were the top-flight’s surprise package in 2011/12 and eventually finished in fifth earning a place in the Europa League. It’s been a completely different story for the Magpies this season as they battle to avoid a second relegation in five seasons while struggling with the bloated fixture list that is part and parcel of competing in Europe. That said their continental exploits have proved a welcome distraction from a dismal league campaign and Pardew will certainly have one eye on the quarter final clash with Benfica on Thursday. Despite sitting 13th in the table the 51-year-old knows his side need at least two more wins to guarantee their top-flight status. A draw at the Etihad Stadium would be welcomed given Newcastle are without five key players.
Vincent Kompany is Manchester City’s main concern after he featured for Belgium in midweek, much to the annoyance of Roberto Mancini, after spending eight weeks out with a calf injury. Sergio Aguero (knee) is available but may not be risked straight away.
Cheick Tiote and Mathieu Debuchy (both hamstring) along with Davide Santon and Massadio Haidara (knee) are all missing for Newcastle as they soldier on in the midst of another injury crisis.
What the managers said…
“I think when you are a top team and you have good players, you should be very strong when you win or lose. This doesn’t change. Also, when you can’t win a title you can have other situations that you can improve. For this reason it is very important to do our best in the next nine games. We have the FA Cup and we have to get second position. I am sure Chelsea or Tottenham want to take second. We need to do our best for this reason, we want to stay there. If we take second position and have a chance to win the FA Cup – I think in the end, with all the problems we have had this year, I think this could be a good season.” Roberto Mancini is demanding a strong end to the season from his players (The Mirror)
“He’s come out and said it’s over. I think that’s probably to take a bit of pressure off his team. They’ll want to get eight wins, and see where they end up. That’s probably his plan. We won’t get fooled by that. That stadium’s a difficult place to get a result, but we’ve got the players to do it. That’s what we believe, and that’s how we’ll approach the game. I just think there’s always a chance of winning. We were at Man United with 12 minutes to go, and were 3-2 up. And we didn’t have as good a side as we’re taking to Man City, So it’s always possible.” Alan Pardew insists he won’t be fooled by Roberto Mancini’s mind-games (Evening Chronicle)
Pre-Match Statistic: Three of City’s last five goals against Newcastle have come from Yaya Toure. He hasn’t managed that total against any other Premier League team.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Newcastle United