Roberto Mancini issues Stephen Ireland challenge

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Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has challenged Stephen Ireland to prove he deserves a place in his 25-man Premier League squad.

Ireland, 23, found himself out of the starting line-up under the Italian during the second half of last season.

The midfielder had been the club's player of the year the season before and his fall down the pecking order has led to suggestions of a summer move away from Eastlands.

Recent reports suggested Ireland could miss out on the 25-man squad eligible to compete in the new Premier League season following a busy summer of transfer signings by the ambitious club.

But Mancini has denied suggestions that the door is already closed for the Irish midfielder.

"Right now I don't know who will miss out. I have not decided anything about Stephen Ireland," Mancini told the Daily Star.

"There has been no problem with him on the tour. I don't know how it's possible for him to think anything other than that he has a chance of a future here because I haven't decided.

"It is up to him to prove himself to me.

"I made Stephen captain for the game on Sunday (against New York Red Bulls) so that shows I still have belief in him."

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