Mancini: Title is still in our grasp

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insists his team have not lost the initiative in the title race.

City, who had led the Premier League since October, now trail Manchester United by four points at the top after being overhauled by their rivals this month.

Yet with a game in hand against Chelsea tonight — when Carlos Tevez could make his much-publicised return — and a derby clash with United on April 30, Mancini has not lost any confidence.

The Italian said: “We will win the title, we will win. We will do everything to win the title. We need to think positive, always.

“Until now we have had a fantastic Premier League, we need to continue like this.

“It is better to stay on the top — always — but I said a month ago it could be that we will go into the second position. This can happen.

“We had difficult fixtures, different from United, but it has not changed. We have everything in our hands.

“There is one game difference — potentially we are one point behind.

“Maybe if we win the next two games we go two points up. We need to go our way, we can’t think about United.”

City lost top spot as they were beaten at Swansea nine days ago, a result which was followed by elimination from the Europa League at the hands of Sporting Lisbon.

Mancini does not think his team are cracking under pressure.

He said: “No, I don’t think this. We know United are used to staying there, always, but this is the only difference between us and United in this moment.”

Nevertheless, City could be given a lift by the return of Tevez, who is set to be named on the bench for Chelsea’s visit to the Etihad Stadium.

The 28-year-old has not played for six months, but has now been back in training for five weeks following the closure of his dispute with the club.

Mancini thinks it could be next month before the Argentinian, top scorer in the past two seasons, is fit enough to start again, but he is now ready to play a part from the bench.

Mancini said: “He is getting better but I don’t think Carlo can have more than 25-30 minutes.

“If he can play 30 minutes, after that 45 in three or four games, then he could have 90 minutes, easily.”

Although Tevez could provide a cutting edge up front, City still have problems at the opposite end with defenders Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott injured.

With Lescott already ruled out with his groin injury and Kompany struggling to overcome his calf strain in time, Stefan Savic and Kolo Toure could continue at the back. They might have to deal with a fired-up Fernando Torres, who finally ended a barren run with a double in Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Leicester on Sunday.

Mancini said: “I am happy for Torres, I like him as a guy and a player. He scored again because he deserved this. I don’t know what will happen tonight but I am happy for him.”

For his part, Roberto Di Matteo has declared Chelsea’s squad strong enough to win tonight — even without captain John Terry who Di Matteo revealed would miss the game after over-exerting himself in the two matches he has played since his remarkable recovery from knee surgery. Di Matteo said of Terry: “I expect him to be okay for the weekend. It’s just been really short-term that he’s not available. He’s a crucial member of our team and a big leader on the pitch as well.”

Andre Villas-Boas’ final pre-match press conference before being sacked as Blues boss saw the Portuguese brand City’s playing pool “a lot better” than his own.

But caretaker manager Di Matteo has no doubt Chelsea can go toe-to-toe with Mancini’s men.

Asked if he believed Chelsea were capable of taking City on, Di Matteo said: “Yes, I do.”

He added: “I think we have a very good team and squad, a very strong one, and we’ve shown it over the years.

“The table shows that they (City) have won more games this season than we have. But, I think we are very competitive.”

Meanwhile Chelsea keeper Hilario has signed a one-year contract extension but the club have kicked midfielder Jacob Mellis out after admitting setting off a smoke grenade at their training ground this month.


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