Minggu, 30 Desember 2012

Mancini hails his champions

Roberto Mancini: Pleased his side kept going

The Blues bounced back from their defeat at Sunderland on Boxing Day to record a third win in the last four and keep leaders Manchester United within striking distance.

City got off to the best possible start at Carrow Road, with a quickfire brace from recalled Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko which put them 2-0 up inside four minutes.

A deflected free-kick from Anthony Pilkington halved the deficit, before midfielder Samir Nasri was shown a red card for pushing his head into Norwich defender Sebastien Bassong as the pair squared up on the touchline.

City, though, did not buckle and extended their lead at the start of the second half with a well-taken effort from Sergio Aguero and then twice withstood Norwich's threatened comeback to close out the result.

"To remain with 10 players here is not easy, but I was sure we could still score goals, and we had our chances," said Mancini, who confirmed City are likely to appeal Nasri's red card which car ries a three-match suspension.

"I am happy because we continued to play and did not just sit deep with our players. We have won two games now when we had only 10 players, also at West Brom, and that should say we are a strong team.

"The season is long, and we still have a chance."

City remain seven points behind United, but Mancini is not reading too much into the gap just yet.

"At this moment, United are better than us, because they are on the top. But for us, it is not important to look at the table now. We need to work, win and maybe in February we will look again," The Italian added.

Mancini had freshened things up after their defeat at the Stadium of Light, opting for Dzeko in place of Carlos Tevez at the spearhead of the attack.

Despite walking off with the matchball, Dzeko was denied a hat-trick after his breakaway effort on 67 minutes has been officially credited as an own-goal after the ball bounced off the post and the back of Norwich keeper Mark Bunn before rolling into the net.

Norwich had turned over both Arsenal and Manchester United during their 10-match unbeaten Premier League run, but have now lost three on the spin.

Despite two close-range efforts from Russell Martin - deputising as captain in place of injured striker Grant Holt who remains touch-and-go for the New Year's Day trip to West Ham - the Canaries could not conjure some late drama.

Nevertheless, manager Chris Hughton remains positive for the challenges ahead as his team look to maintain distance between themselves and the relegation dogfight.

He said: "The real plusses are we have played away at West Brom, who had a wonderful season, the Champions League winners (Chelsea) and now the Premier League winners in consecutive games, and have been in all of them, losing by just one goal, so that is a measure of where we are.

"For clubs like ourselves always look at it as a bonus when you get scalp s against the big ones, and we were fortunate to have two of those here.

"But we are not unrealistic of how difficult it is, and the quality these sides have.

"Our season will not be defined on these matches, it will be about making sure we get enough points when we can elsewhere."

Edin Dzeko scores twice as 10-man Man City beat Norwich 4-3

Edin Dzeko: At the double for Man City away at Norwich

Roberto Mancini's men raced into a two-goal lead within four minutes through Bosnian striker Dzeko before Anthony Pilkington's deflected free-kick halved the deficit.

A superb first half ended in controversy when Samir Nasri saw red for his angry reaction to a Sebastien Bassong tackle that saw the Norwich defender booked.

The champions extended their advantage once more five minutes into the second half through a cool finish from Aguero, only for Russell Martin to head home from close range just past the hour.

The visitors made it 4-2 just four minutes later when Dzeko's shot from the angle rebounded in off goalkeeper Mark Bunn before Martin's second goal 15 minutes from time ensured a nervy finish.

However, the champions held on for what could be a vital victory and condemned Norwich to a third successive league defeat.

City, who were looking to bounce back following a Boxing Day defeat at Sunderland, were ahead inside two minutes. Aguero and David Silva combining to set up an unmarked Dzeko to sweep home from six yards before Aguero presented Dzeko with a tap-in just two minutes later.

There was some brief respite for Norwich on 13 minutes when Kompany tripped Robert Snodgrass just outside the Manchester City penalty area. The Scotland international shaped to take the free-kick himself, but instead ran over the ball, as Pilkington drove in a low shot which deflected off Gael Clichy and past Joe Hart.

Things got ugly just before the break when Bassong upended Nasri on the far touchline. The duo squared up face-to-face, with Nasri pushing his head into the Norwich defender - which on consultation with the assistant referee resulted in a red card for the France midfielder, and a caution for Bassong.

City were soon back on the offensive following the restart and restored their two-goal cushion on 50 minutes. Toure delivered a perfectly-weighted angled ball which Bassong could not cut out and dropped into the path of Aguero who produced an exquisite chip to beat the advancing keeper and put City back in control.

It was 3-2 when Bassong's header back across the six-yard box from Snodgrass' clever centre was guided into the top right corner by Martin on 63 minutes. However, City quickly restored their advantage as Dzeko sprung the offside trap and burst into the Norwich penalty area, his shot beating Bunn at the near post, the ball bouncing off the woodwork, then the keeper's back and into the net.

A quite amazing match sparked into life once more with 15 minutes left when another Norwich corner caused panic in the City six-yard box and Martin swept the ball in again from point-blank range.

Sabtu, 29 Desember 2012

Garrido excited by City reunion

Javier Garrido: Welcomes City reunion

The 27-year-old is currently on loan at Norwich from Lazio after spending three years at the Etihad.

Garrido has been one of the most consistent performers for Chris Hughton's Canaries this season and has drawn plaudits for his displays at left-back.

The former Spain Under-21 international left City shortly after the signing of Aleksandar Kolarov and was a member of the squad during the transition in ownership that saw Sheikh Mansour complete a takeover.

"I have got good memories, everything changed so fast from one year to another," Garrido said of his time at Man City.

"I had three years there and have friends there so it is going to be a new experience but as soon as the referee starts the game I will do my best to beat them.

"It was a special situation because when I arrived there they signed seven or eight players but then the owner changed with new ideas and new staff.

"It was a good thing to just be involved in trainin g and playing with names like (Carlos) Tevez, they are top class players - it makes you grow as a player."

Hughton's side head into the match with the reigning champions on the back of successive defeats to West Brom and Chelsea.

Before the festive period Norwich had been unbeaten since travelling to face the Blues on October 6 and Garrido is hoping they can return to winning ways on Saturday.

He said: "It was very important to be unbeaten for nine games and now we have a difficult game and we will do our best just to keep some points.

"All of the teams are trying to win as many games as possible - everyone has to work hard and Saturday we play another game. It is at home so we can play to our strengths."

After a tricky away trip to the Hawthorns and entertaining both Chelsea and Man City, Norwich have had a tough run of fixtures but Garrido is still backing the side to pick up a result if they can play their best.

"That is the calen dar that we got," he said. "Afterwards we have got West Ham which will be another difficult game and then we have a game in the FA Cup so it is going to be tough but we are ready and have been doing the same thing we are used to.

"We have to try and be focused on what we have to do and run more than them and they have to not have a good day but at the moment we are doing well at Carrow Road so it is difficult for anyone to come here."

The former Real Sociedad defender signed on-loan for Norwich in August and, as well as the option of extending the deal, Garrido is eyeing a permanent move to Norfolk.

"I have told may times I'm happy and have settled down so fast here with team-mates and the fans so it has been great," he said.

"We have to keep going the way we are going and why not have a permanent deal in the near future?"

Hughton took charge at Carrow Road in the summer after Paul Lambert left to manage Aston Villa.

He has guided th e Canaries to 25 points at the half-way stage of the season and agreed with Garrido that the recent fixture list has not been kind to the club.

"They are tough games but we knew that and all you hope is that you are in good shape going into those games and we have been in good shape," he said.

"We have managed to get a fair few points leading up to this Christmas period and have been right in it in both of these games.

"What I'm pleased with is that we had a tough game at West Brom, a side that are doing really well, and the quality of Chelsea and we have made them really tight games.

"Although we have lost both games we lost them by the odd goal and in both games, quite possibly we could have got more."

Kamis, 27 Desember 2012

Hart refuses to give up hope

Joe Hart: Staying positive in title race

While United claimed a late victory over Newcastle United, City were beaten 1-0 by Sunderland.

Hart concedes that the situation is far from ideal but insists there is pressure on United as well as City.

"We've had leads, United have had the lead - it's to-ing and fro-ing at the moment," he said on the club's official website.

"We're a team of winners, it's hard and it hurts but we've got to move on. It is hard to lead and it is hard to chase too.

"We've clawed points back before, we proved it at the end of last year - we've just got to believe."

Adam Johnson scored the only goal of the game for Sunderland to extend City's poor recent record at the Stadium of Light, and Hart was disappointed to let the ball squirm past him at the near post.

He added: "First and foremost someone stamped on Zaba - it was a blatantly obvious foul but what can you do?

"A few of our players have stopped but Johnno has seen me sniffing for a cross and he's struck it well with that stiff ankle of his and it just deviated under my hand unfortunately."

"The only way we can change it is (City's record at Sunderland) by winning here next year but for now we only have Norwich on our minds.

"Simon Mignolet has had a magnificent game, he's a brilliant goalkeeper. I've watched him closely in other games and I think Sunderland defended for their lives and it just wouldn't go in for us."

Rabu, 26 Desember 2012

Manchester City should have taken something at Sunderland, insists Roberto Mancini

The Italian saw his men go down 1-0 on Wearside for the third year in succession with Adam Johnson's goal just after half-time proving enough for the home side to take all three points.

"When you come to play here you say the same things, you dominate the game and you lose, you don't think it is possible but this is football," Mancini told Sky Sports.

"It is the same as last season, like two years ago, like three years ago.

"I think we played very well, but we had one problem - we need to score and we don't score enough to win, and at this time our strikers need to improve, if you don't score you don't win - we had five chances in the first half and did not score."

Mancini was left unhappy with referee Kevin Friend who failed to spot what looked a clear foul on Pablo Zabaleta in the build-up to Sunderland's winner.

"You need to ask referee and linesman," he continued. "I was there, there was not a foul but a big foul - maybe the refere e had too much for Christmas."

Champions City are now seven points adrift of rivals and league leaders Manchester United, but Mancini is not panicking.

"This does not change our season, it is a long season," he said. "United concede a lot of goals but they score two or three every game and at this moment they have the bigger chance [of winning the league] but it is a long season and we have the chance to recover points."

Selasa, 25 Desember 2012

Nastasic full of festive cheer

Nastasic: City head to Sunderland next

The 19-year-old centre-back, who has made a big impression since his arrival from Fiorentina in August, is unfazed by the prospect of playing five games in the space of 15 days.

He is also far from concerned by the fact the next two of those matches, at Sunderland on Boxing Day and Norwich next Saturday, will involve lengthy journeys.

"To me it is not a problem," said the Serbia international. "I am always happy when I am playing, so this time of the season makes me happiest of all!

"My father and mother are here, so I won't miss my family.

"I don't look at the two long away trips as a problem at all.

"Now we concentrate on the Sunderland game, and then we focus on Norwich - it's not a headache.

"The league in Italy stops, and we have a break, but playing here is no problem for me. I am looking forward to the next couple of games."

City needed a last-gasp winner from Gareth Barry to beat Premier League bottom side Read ing in the first of their festive matches at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Having gone into the game trailing leaders Manchester United by six points, the champions were in danger of handing their title rivals another boost until Barry headed home a contentious goal in injury time.

Reading felt Barry had fouled Nicky Shorey but City celebrated a valuable three points amid much relief and their joy increased later in the weekend when Swansea held United to a draw.

Although Reading showed commendable resilience throughout, Nastasic felt victory was deserved for City's obvious superiority and greater number of chances over the whole game.

Nastasic said: "We knew the game would be difficult because it was obvious they would just come and defend, but we deserved the goal in the last minute.

"Reading played 11 men behind the ball, in a small area which always makes it very difficult to attack - but that was their game plan.

"We are a ver y strong team, self-motivated and full of confidence at the moment. What is important is that we keep the same attitude, if we want to win the Premier League.

"We won the game, and that is the important thing."

Nastasic's consistent and unfussy performances are currently keeping England centre-back Joleon Lescott out of the City side.

There was even the unusual sight on Saturday of Lescott and captain Vincent Kompany - the heart of City's title-winning defence last season - on the bench as Nastasic partnered Kolo Toure.

Manager Roberto Mancini's regard for the player is evident and he is quickly becoming a fans' favourite.

Nastasic said: "It makes me happy if the fans think highly of me, and I just want to keep playing the way I am - that is the objective for the whole team, not just me."

Kompany was not risked against Reading as he continues to recover from the groin injury he suffered in the Manchester derby defeat a fortnight ago.

Another teenager, Karim Rekik, was also deployed at left-back as both Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov were sidelined by niggles.

Their fitness will be assessed ahead of the trip to the Stadium of Light while controversial striker Mario Balotelli could come back into contention after illness last week but forward Samir Nasri is out with a hamstring injury.

The match marks the halfway point of the season and Mancini wants his side to start picking up the tempo.

The Italian said: "We can work better but at the same time I think that we need to do more than last year.

"From the first six months we need to work better - that's individuals and the group."

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri has played down Mario Balotelli transfer talk

Mario Balotelli: Linked to AC Milan

The Serie A giants are thought to be in the market for striking reinforcements with Robinho and Alexandre Pato expected to move on in January.

While the Manchester City striker continues to be linked to the club, president Silvio Berlusconi has played down the speculation, as has Allegri.

"I don't know if I'll train Mario Balotelli, I don't like to talk about it because he is a Manchester City player," he told Milan Channel.

He added that despite five to six years with the biggest teams, Balotelli is still an unfinished player and the responsibility for that lies with the striker himself.

"He is an important player, but he must make a final leap."

As regards possible business in the next transfer window, Allegri said: ""Who we'll take in January? We must assess, we're waiting to see what happens with Pato and Robinho, then we'll see."

Don't miss any live and exclusive football coverage this festive season. Click here to visit Sky Sports' Festive Calendar

Minggu, 23 Desember 2012

Barry: 'We were worried'

Gareth Barry: Late header

The champions had been in danger of dropping vital points to the Barclays Premier League's bottom side before Barry headed home in injury time to snatch a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.

City had gone into the game trailing rivals Manchester United by six points at the top of the table and, after failing to make the most of a clear superiority, had looked like handing their neighbours another boost.

But the hosts fought to the end and, despite claims by Reading that he benefited from climbing on the back of Nicky Shorey, Barry rose to meet a David Silva cross to plant home a firm header.

Midfielder Barry said: "I am relieved and delighted at the same time, to get a goal that late.

"You are starting, probably, to panic, thinking we are going to drop some big points at home again.

"It is difficult, especially when you don't get the breakthrough early.

"The longer the game goes on the more you could see the Reading players growin g in confidence.

"They started to believe they could keep us out for the 90 minutes. Even towards the end they were believing they could maybe get the winning goal."

Royals boss Brian McDermott claimed the decision by referee Mike Dean to award the goal, as well as earlier denying his side a penalty, had ruined his Christmas.

Barry felt he had merely been playing for the ball.

He said: "At the time I felt I just got up and Nicky Shorey was just standing there.

"I probably went over the top of him. I'm delighted the referee hasn't seen it as a foul."

City dominated in all departments and had 17 attempts on goal to their opponents' six, although they did not regularly test goalkeeper Adam Federici.

Reading showed great defensive resolve throughout and Alex Pearce had two good headed opportunities from corners.

Jay Tabb thought he should have had a penalty after colliding with City youngster Karim Rekik during a second-hal f counter-attack - when Matija Nastasic might also have escaped with a handball - but Reading's spirited efforts were not rewarded.

City's 2012, particularly their dramatic title success, will be remembered for late goals and they ended their home programme for the year in typical fashion.

Barry, 31, added on City TV: "You have got to [keep going] at this level. We scored so many late goals last season and a few this year.

"Those late goals can be so important at the end of the season and hopefully that will be another one."

With three more games to come in just over a week, Barry felt the points were vital to keep the pressure on United.

He said: "It is very important. When there is a little gap it is important you don't slip away too much further.

"If we can keep chipping away we are going to be there at the end of the season."

A seventh successive defeat was harsh on Reading after a performance much improved from Monday's 5 -2 defeat by Arsenal.

Midfielder Jem Karacan, who had been making his first appearance in two months after overcoming a knee injury, said: "We're gutted, the boys are devastated. "On another day, Tabby gets a penalty and we get a goal to take the lead. We just don't seem to get the decisions when we need them.

"The boys have been unbelievable, we all worked so hard.

"Yet we defend for our lives for 90 minutes and they go and get one in injury time even though everyone can see it's a blatant foul.

"You look at the replays and he's all over Shorey. Nine times out of 10 it's a foul - but it's not gone for us.

"People are writing us off day in, day out, no-one is giving us a chance in hell.

"But you can't take notice of it. The fans were fantastic and, as players, we look around our dressing room and we have faith in each other."

Sabtu, 22 Desember 2012

Corinthians plan to keep stars

Paulinho: Has been linked with a move to Manchester City

Manchester City have been linked with midfielder Paulinho, while striker Guerrero is thought to be on the radar of Chelsea after scoring against them in the FIFA Club World Cup final.

Goalkeeper Cassio and forward Juan Manuel Martinez have also attracted interest from elsewhere after impressing for the Brazilian club.

But Gobbi is adamant Corinthians are only looking to strengthen in January and will not be letting any of their stars leave.

He told Terra: "The principle is to strengthen [the squad], not to let any player leave.

"Our cycle is from July to July, so until the end of the Copa Libertadores, our squad will remain the same. Nobody will leave."

Jumat, 21 Desember 2012

Roberto Mancini gives Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli another chance

Roberto Mancini: Has offered an olive branch to errant striker Mario Balotelli

Balotelli backed down over a 340,000 fine for ill-discipline this week, abandoning his appeal to a Premier League tribunal.

The situation had increased speculation he could leave City during the January transfer window but Mancini welcomed the U-turn and challenged the 22-year-old to now force his way back into the first-team.

Mancini said: "This is an old situation and it is normal when someone does a mistake he should take his responsibilities and Mario did this. It's normal.

"He (should) respect himself, not me, because it's important for him to respect himself, very important.

"I am his manager, like other players, and if he deserves to have other chances he will have them."

Balotelli will not feature in Saturday's visit of Reading after missing training with a virus.

Mancini said: "This weekend Mario, unfortunately, is ill. He came (on Friday morning) but he can't do anything."

Don't miss any live and exclusive football coverage this festive season. Click here to visit Sky Sports' Festive Calendar

Rabu, 19 Desember 2012

Manchester City defender Kolo Toure happy and hoping to stay

The experienced defender was among the first to join the Etihad Stadium revolution in the wake of Sheikh Mansour's successful takeover.

He has now spent three-and-a-half years with City, with the first of those spent as club captain.

Toure has endured a tough time of late, with a six-month ban for a failed drug test seeing him drop out of the team and out of favour.

It has been suggested that the 31-year-old would be allowed to move on in January if a suitable offer was tabled, with his current contract set to expire at the end of the season.

Toure, though, claims he would be delighted to open extension talks, with there no desire on his part to make a fresh start elsewhere.

The former Arsenal centre-back told Sky Sports: "I like it in England. I have been here for all my career and it's great to play in England. I really enjoy it, that is why I brought my brother (Yaya) here!

"There are challenges coming and there are changes i n life, and I will deal with that if it happened. I wish to stay, but you never know."


Toure feels as though he owes City for standing by him during his doping ban, with the club having never wavered in their support.

He added: "The club has been here for me. Even through my tough time, everyone was behind me - the people and the staff at the club, everybody, the chairman, everybody.

"To have this support is great and that is why it would be much more difficult to leave."

Don't miss any live and exclusive football coverage this festive season. Click here to visit Sky Sports' Festive Calendar

Balotelli accepts City fine

Mario Balotelli: Has accepted a two-week fine

The Italy international's lawyers were on Wednesday due to present their case to a Premier League tribunal, who were due to hear his appeal against a club fine.

It is understood City imposed a fine of two weeks' wages - a figure reported to be around 340,000 - on Balotelli last season for on-field indiscipline, causing his unrest.

But a brief statement from City today read: "After amicable talks between the parties, as a sign of respect for Roberto Mancini, the supporters and the club, Mario Balotelli has chosen to accept a two week fine levied upon him by the club and withdraw his disciplinary appeal, which was due to be heard by a Premier League panel today.

"Mario remains available for selection for all forthcoming fixtures."

Balotelli had exercised his right to take his fight to a league panel after failing to overturn the sanction through City's internal appeals process.

The hearing was due to take place at an undisclosed locat ion in London, with details of who would be present also sketchy.

Balotelli, 22, missed 11 competitive matches through suspension last season as a result of three red cards - one from the previous campaign - and one retrospective punishment.

That was also in a season in which he courted controversy for numerous off-field matters.

News of the fine emerged this week and has fuelled further speculation that the player could leave the Etihad Stadium in the January transfer window.

Balotelli's form this season has generally been under scrutiny having scored just one goal in the Premier League.

He was omitted from the squad by manager Roberto Mancini, for the second time in just over a month, for Saturday's victory at Newcastle.

Mancini also voiced fears the player's talent could go to waste after an ineffectual performance in the derby loss to Manchester United.

Balotelli, signed for 24million from Inter Milan in 2010, has been lin ked with a return to the San Siro with AC Milan but his agent has consistently denied he wishes to move.

Selasa, 18 Desember 2012

Mario Balotelli to take on Manchester City as fine hearing reaches tribunal

Mario Balotelli: Sent off twice in last season's Premier League

City docked their 24million striker two weeks' wages at the end of last season after suspensions forced him to miss 11 games in all competitions.

That decision was upheld by the club after Balotelli appealed, but the Italian has not let it drop and a three-man panel will now hear the case on Wednesday.

Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor told the BBC: "We try to avoid situations like this wherever possible, but the player and club have not been able to resolve this situation."

Balotelli was sent off twice last season and also received a ban for stamping on Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker.

Senin, 17 Desember 2012

Cesare Prandelli backs Roberto Mancini's handling of Mario Balotelli at Man City

Mario Balotelli: Told to listen to Roberto Mancini by Cesare Prandelli

Balotelli has played only a minor role at Manchester City this season and faces competition for a starting role from the likes of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko, while he will this week go before a Premier League tribunal as he fights a fine imposed by Manchester City.

Italy boss Prandelli is understandably keen for Balotelli to play regularly and is aware of reports linking the 22-year-old with a move back to Serie A.

But Prandelli thinks the best thing he could do is take on board the advice of Mancini, who has repeatedly told Balotelli to take on more responsibility and improve his mentality.

"Mancini is completely right: Balotelli really has to start listening to him. I'm with Mancini on this," Prandelli told Rai Sport.

"Now, everything depends on Mario. All a coach can do is try to motivate and encourage him. The desire has got to come from within the player.

"Would coming back to play in Italy help Balotell i? The most important thing is that he can start to play with continuity - it's not a question of in which city or in which country."

Manchester City fans being tracked down after flare incident at St James' Park

St James' Park: Police are investigating a flare being thrown into the home

A flare was thrown into the home fans' section during City's 3-1 win over the Magpies and investigations are being dealt with by Northumbria Police.

A police statement said: "A flare was thrown from the section containing Manchester City fans into a section of Newcastle United fans, no one was injured and it was quickly extinguished.

"A second flare was set off in the section containing Manchester City fans.

"Officers at the scene carried out extensive enquiries, including checking CCTV and speaking with available witnesses. However, the person or people responsible are yet to be identified.

"We take incidents such as this extremely seriously and enquiries are still ongoing. Officers continue to work with colleagues at Greater Manchester Police."

Northumbria Police also received a complaint concerning an allegation of racist abuse after City substitute Aleksandar Kolarov become involved in a lengthy exchange with fans holding an Alb ania flag as he warmed up on the sidelines.

Minggu, 16 Desember 2012

Clichy demands more City spirit

Gael Clichy: City must show more spirit in title defence

The France international helped City to a battling 3-1 Premier League victory at Newcastle on Saturday to ensure they maintained pace with arch-rivals Manchester United who are six points clear at the top of the table.

But the visitors had to summon up all their considerable reserves to see themselves over the finishing line after the Magpies launched a concerted fightback, and Clichy believes that same spirit will serve them well as they attempt to defend their status as top dogs not only in Manchester, but in England.

Clichy told City TV: "The only thing we have been missing this year is probably a bit of spirit. From last season, people expect more from us - our fans, ourselves.

"Last season was a great season, but like the manager says, we have to put this behind us and start to work.

"This could be an example for everyone because the work-rate was unbelievable from the players up front to the defenders and (keeper) Joe (Hart). That's the spirit we have to have.

"We know the quality is there - we can score, we have seen it since the beginning of the season that we can score against any team, any time, but we just need this extra fighting spirit and on Saturday, we had it."

City arrived at St James' Park still smarting from their 3-2 derby defeat by United and knowing that anything other than victory could extend the gap between themselves and the top of the table.

However, Clichy insisted they could not afford to dwell on that disappointing afternoon at the Etihad Stadium.

He said: "We lost the game against United, a great team. From 2-0 down, we came back to 2-2 and unfortunately lost in the last minute to a free-kick.

"Of course it was a disappointment because we lost the three points, but there were plenty of positives during the game.

"One game is not the end of the world and we just wanted to stay focussed for this game, and now this game is over, we are goin g to think for next week.

"We are just going to take game after game and see how it goes."

City had to weather an early flurry from Newcastle during which Hart made a vital save from Papiss Cisse, but took control after forcing their way into a 10th-minute lead.

Yaya Toure's inch-perfect pass allowed Samir Nasri to square for Sergio Aguero to slot home, and the goal sparked a real purple patch in which the Magpies found themselves chasing shadows.

Javi Garcia's 39th-minute header gave them further breathing space, but when Demba Ba reduced the deficit six minutes after the restart, the home side sensed an opportunity.

It took a 78th-minute strike by Yaya Toure to end Newcastle's hopes and secure three vital points with Clichy delighted with the way he and his defensive colleagues handled the twin threat of Ba and Papiss Cisse.

The 27-year-old said: "They are really good and they suit English football perfectly because they are fast, they are powerful, they are really good in the air, but not only in the air, they can play with the ball at their feet.

"They are great players and it's credit to the defence and the team. Of course we conceded one goal, but to be able to perform the way we did - because Newcastle is a really tough place to come - and against those players we have to be aware until the last minute."

Clichy individually was as impressive as anyone at the back, but his own assessment was a model of modesty.

He said: "I am not Messi or Ronaldo, that's for sure, but of course I want to work hard for my team and for the fans because everyone deserves at least this from me.

"Not only me, but the whole team, performed well and that's the way we want to go until the end of the season."

Police probe 'racist' incident after Aleksandar Kolarov involved in spat

Alexsandar Kolarov: Accused of racially abusing two Newcastle fans

An incident is alleged to have occurred during the first half of City's 3-1 Premier League win, as Kolarov warmed up on the touchline.

Kolarov became involved in a lengthy exchange with the supporters, who are understood to have waved an Albanian flag near the Serbia international.

The pair are believed to have complained to stewards, who then alerted police.

Northumbria Police confirmed they had received a complaint in a short statement that read: "Northumbria Police has received a report of racist language having been used at the St James' Park stadium during the Newcastle United v Manchester City match.

"Northumbria Police takes such allegations extremely seriously and enquiries are ongoing into the incident."

There is a long history of tension between Serbia and Albania, particularly over the disputed Kosovo region.

Kolarov was introduced as a 37th-minute replacement for the injured Samir Nasri, but was substitute d himself 18 minutes from time.

Neither club has yet commented on the matter.

Sabtu, 15 Desember 2012

Man City shut down MLS rumour

Beckham: Rumoured to have been approached

City, who on Friday reported annual losses of 97.9million and increased turnover of 231.1million, were said to be on the brink of being awarded a franchise that would be based in the Queens district of New York.

It had been suggested David Beckham had been approached to be part of the scheme, which was to be named New York City Football Club and cost Blues owner Sheikh Mansour 100million.

However, Manchester City officials have now distanced themselves from the talk.

"Manchester City are not buying an MLS club," said City in a short statement.

Sheikh Mansour has used his involvement with City, on which he has now lavished well in excess of 1billion, to raise the profile of Abu Dhabi.

It was suggested an involvement within the MLS would add to the work that has taken place turning City from a mid-ranking Premier League club into last season's champions.

A second MLS franchise in New York is set to be based in Queens, close to the site of Flushing Meadows, which currently hosts the US Open in tennis.

Rabu, 12 Desember 2012

Kompany: City must respond

Kompany: Confident of title defence

City were beaten 3-2 at home by title rivals Manchester United on Sunday, leaving them six points adrift of the Red Devils, and are already out of the Champions League.

But Kompany claims the team remains determined to succeed and believes they can improve.

"In my mind, there is no difference other than we now know we can do it, so if we apply ourselves correctly we can win it again," said the Belgian.

"Of course, as champions you start most games as favourites to win and teams tend to sit back a little bit more and wait for you to take the game to them - then try to catch you on the counter-attack.

"Teams may have more respect, but they are not naive with it and that makes each game a bit trickier than it was last season. It's an honour to be defending the Premier League title, so you have to take everything that comes with it.

"The message was very clear for everyone at the start of the season - we can't sit back and just expect t he success of the last campaign to land in our laps again.

"We have the ambition to improve on our achievements last season and do better again.

"That's our aim and what we work towards every day in training. We've learned a lot from winning the title but I still think there is a lot of room for improvement."

Despite a disappointing campaign so far, the 26-year-old centre-back claims it is inevitable that City will enjoy more success domestically and in Europe very soon and asked fans to be patient.

Kompany added: "I think everyone in the football world knows City are destined for greatness in the Champions League and if they don't, they would be ignoring the truth.

"We've proved as much in the Premier League and the fans have no reason to be impatient. I know they are with us, because it will come.

"There will be a City team that will go far in the Champions League, but you can't jump into the most difficult competition in the world and just win it.

"It takes time and it's good it's been so difficult so far because it proves you just have to be ready for it and hit the ground running."

Premier League: Manchester City's Yaya Toure tips Mario Balotelli for greatness

Mario Balotelli: Tipped for greatness by Manchester City team-mate

Balotelli was named in City's starting XI for their clash with league leaders Manchester United.

But after struggling to make an impact, the Italian was taken off early in the second half in a game that ended in a 3-2 defeat for City.

Since joining City in 2010, the 22-year-old has had his ups and downs but team-mate Toure is convinced he has a bright future ahead of him.

"Mario is an unbelievable player but sometimes he can be angry with himself," Toure told the Manchester Evening News.

"All players need to improve, and I talk all the time with Mario.

"This year especially he has been working hard in training, and improving well, but sometimes in the game you can get so disappointed when you lose small things.

"But he has fantastic character and I know he will be one of the top strikers in the Premier League."

Don't miss any live and exclusive football coverage this festive season. Click here to visi t Sky Sports' Festive Calendar

Roberto Mancini considers Manchester City to be the best team in England

Roberto Mancini: Believes his side are stronger and play better football than Si

A 3-2 derby defeat at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday has left City six points adrift of their neighbours approaching the busy festive period.

City proved last season they cannot be underestimated, as they snatched the crown in the most dramatic of circumstances, but United are determined to ensure history does not repeat itself.

Mancini is aware his side face a tough task in their efforts to mount a successful defence of their title, but feels City are still the best side in England, regardless of what the standings may suggest.

He said: "Things aren't going well but I know we will still have a great year.

"United have more experience but we have a much better team and play much better football.

"Six points is not a big difference with 24 games still to play.

"We need to try and win five or six games in a row to try and reduce the gap."


Mancini added: "Even though we lost on Sunday, we showed we a re a really strong team and can win the title again.

"We were unlucky. We dominated long spells of that game and did not deserve to lose.

"The Premier League is the best campaign in the world at the moment and as we know from winning last year, you can lose a game in the last second."

Don't miss any live and exclusive football coverage this festive season. Click here to visit Sky Sports' Festive Calendar

Selasa, 11 Desember 2012

Furman heaps praise on Wabara

Wabara: Praise from the skipper

England Under-20 international Wabara has made 20 starts since moving to Boundary Park in September, establishing himself as a key member of Paul Dickov's squad.

A maiden Latics goal arrived earlier this month in the 3-1 FA Cup triumph over Doncaster - one of a number of occasions on which the 20-year-old right-back has filled in at centre-half due to injury and suspension issues.

"Reece has been tremendous for us," Furman told Press Association Sport. "He's stepped in at centre-back

which he's not accustomed to.

"Obviously right-back is his preferred position and the partnership he's got with Lee Croft down the right-hand side is as good as any in this league, it's superb.

"He's got so much pace and he's a real threat going forward, but not at the expense of his defensive work.

"He's going to get better and better and is one of the brightest lads we've got in the dressing room."

Paulinho has no plans to secure a move away from Corinthians

Paulinho: Being linked with a big-money move to Europe

Speculation linking the Brazil international with a move to Europe has intensified ahead of the January transfer window.

Manchester City are among those said to be keen, with Roberto Mancini looking for an injection of creativity at the Etihad Stadium.

A big-money bid may tempt Corinthians, but the player will also need to be convinced that the time is right to leave his homeland.

Paulinho has hinted that he is ready to snub any advances, with the 24-year-old prepared to shrug off rumours regarding his future while he focuses on a bid for Club World Cup glory.

He told UOL: "Winning the Club World Cup title won't change anything regarding my plans for 2013. I intend to stay at Corinthians in 2013.

"When other clubs were interested, I told you. But I can tell you that there are no new offers.

"I won't change my opinion. I decided to stay at Corinthians because I can become a champion here."

Paulinho recently penned a con tract extension at Corinthians which will keep him at the Sao Paulo-based club until 2015.

Barry hit with FA charge

Gareth Barry: Breached Rule E3, according to the FA

The England international has been charged with breaching Rule E3 by using abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official.

Barry has until 4pm on Thursday to respond to the charge.

Barry's charge is the latest episode in the fall-out from a controversial encounter which saw United score an added-time winner after their 2-0 lead had been pegged back in the second half.

Red Devils' defender Rio Ferdinand was hit with a coin as he celebrated his side's late goal and a fan had to be restrained by City goalkeeper Joe Hart after encroaching onto the pitch.

City have confirmed Matthew Stott, 21, has had his season ticket removed for the rest of the season and faces a lifetime ban if found guilty in court of a charge of pitch encroachment.

In a statement released by his solicitors Stott, a landscape gardener from Knutsford, said: "I would like to apologise to all those affected by my actions, particularly Mr Ferdinand and the other players.

"I am extremely ashamed of my actions. I have let myself down, my family down, my fellow fans down and Manchester City Football Club.

"I intend to write personally to Mr Ferdinand to express my extreme regret and apologies and also apologise to Manchester United and their fans."

Stott is now facing a possible banning order but his solicitor said he had never been in trouble before and was not the "stereotypical drunken football fan".

Police also charged eight other people, including for a racially aggravated public order offence, pitch encroachment, breach of football banning orders and other public offences.

Football Association chairman David Bernstein described the incidents as "deplorable".

"To see Rio Ferdinand with blood on his face is absolutely terrible," he told Sky Sports News.

"I think it's disturbing that we're seeing a recurrence of these types of incidents.

"It's very unacceptable and has to be d ealt with severely... in the strongest way we can.

"To my mind it's for the FA, the whole game of football and the authorities to work together to deal with this most severe matter."

Senin, 10 Desember 2012

Toure: Time for City toughness

Yaya Toure: We are more determined to win the PL

It has not been the greatest of seasons for the Blues so far.

A disappointing Champions League campaign ended last week with a defeat to Borussia Dortmund that condemned them to the worst performance by any English club in the competition's history.

Then, at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, City's 37-match unbeaten home record in the Premier League was shattered by Manchester United, whose injury-time winner took them six points clear in the title race.

Questions are now being asked of Roberto Mancini, whose decision to select Mario Balotelli ahead of Carlos Tevez for derby duty backfired spectacularly.

In addition, Joleon Lescott's omission was mystifying, with the England defender still being overlooked after the departure of skipper Vincent Kompany, who looks set for a spell on the sidelines with a calf problem.

But Toure insists this is not a time for City to feel sorry for themselves.

After recovering from eight points behi nd with only six games left last term, the Ivorian knows the battle is far from over.

Yet he does recognise the Blues need to improve.

"This makes us more determined to win it," he said.

"We are tough men, and when things get difficult, that is when you find the tough men.

"Last year was fantastic. But we have to forget what we have done in the past.

"We have to realise that sometimes you have a bad time. When you are at the top everybody wants to take you down.

"We have to be strong and work harder to turn this around.

"This year will be hard but we have a fantastic squad and we have the confidence to keep going until the final day."

In a sense, City answered their critics with that thrilling second-half comeback.

It is the type of obduracy that has become a hallmark of their recent domestic performances, drawing respect from Sir Alex Ferguson, who injected his own squad with similar traits so many years ago.

Yet that just made it all the more galling when Robin van Persie drove home United's deflected winner in stoppage time.

"It was a dagger in the heart - unbelievable," said Toure.

"We thought we would win it at 2-2, but United have great experience.

"It was a fantastic game for the fans though. That is why I like the Premier League. It is the toughest league in the world."

City do need to find form fast though.

Saturday's trip to Newcastle is a tricky test, after which come a run of matches the Blues would normally expect to pocket maximum points from.

From their present position, any unexpected slip-ups would widen the gap to United to such a degree it would be difficult to claw back even after their rivals' European push starts again in mid-February.

So Mancini has to get his selections right - which surely means another spell on the sidelines for Balotelli, whose negligible impact contrasted sharply with that of Tevez, whose arrival threatened to change the game.

"Carlos was amazing when he came on," said Toure, who shrugged off his own knee injury, insisting he would be fit for the trip to St James' Park.

"(Sergio) Aguero was working hard, and the goals started coming.

"But this year we have not got lucky.

"We have to be strong mentally, and strong in every other way as well, because the Premier League is not finished yet."

Minggu, 09 Desember 2012

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson saluted his team after beating neighbours City at Etihad Stadium

Roberto Mancini's battling men seemed to have salvaged a point having trailed at half-time to a Wayne Rooney brace, only for Robin van Persie to stroke in a deflected free-kick winner in the dying seconds.

Securing all the spoils to stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League would have been pleasing for United.

But it will have also helped to reduce some of the pain of losing twice to their rivals last season, including the 6-1 demolition at Old Trafford.

"It was a fantastic game and you couldn't take your eyes off it," Ferguson said.

"They hadn't lost in two years at home and both of us are contending at the top of the league. We should have finished it off though."

United were unlucky not to have scored a third, with Ashley Young incorrectly ruled offside when he tapped in after Van Persie had curled a shot against the upright.

Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta were on target to level the scores, before the late drama and the Dutchman's last-gasp strike.

"Instead of it being 3-0 - and it was a perfectly onside goal - they go and score. Up to then we were far better," Ferguson added.

"That's the kind of game it is - it can kick you in the teeth. They deserved to get back in it - they fought like hell and gambled with three strikers.

"We can be proud of the fact that, opposed to last year when we sat off them too much, gave them far too much respect, there was a great team spirit.

"They were determined to win the match. I think in general everyone would recognise that."

Mario Balotelli's performance in Manchester derby leaves boss Roberto Mancini baffled

Mario Balotelli: Was not at his best against neighbours United

The pair have endured a fractious relationship at the Etihad Stadium since the Italian forward arrived from Inter Milan for 24m in August 2010.

Balotelli has recently been accused of not pulling his weight in training and has often found himself on the bench this season.

And after being hauled off in the 52nd-minute with City trailing 2-0 to their neighbours, Mancini said: "I love Mario but it is important for him to start to think about his job.

"He has everything to play well but he can't continue to play like today. We wanted more from him.

"When you have a player that has Mario's quality, you cannot understand why he continues to throw it out of the window. It is incredible.

"I have seen players in my life with fantastic quality. But in the end, they did nothing. I don't want Mario to finish like these players. It would be bad for him."

Mancini backed his decision not to start with Carlos Tevez and choosing Balotelli, who stomped into the players' tunnel after being substituted early in the second half at the Etihad.

He said: "It is easy to say after the game. I thought Mario could create problems for them. He is young and runs quickly - when you decide before the game this is what you think."

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson never thought he would miss out on Robin van Persie

Sir Alex Ferguson: Happy Robin van Persie signed for Manchester United

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had revealed the Dutchman reportedly rejected a 300,000-a-week pay deal at Manchester City so that he could join United.

Ferguson admits he was glad United forked out the 22million transfer fee to land Van Persie, who was always keen on a move to Old Trafford.

And it seems to be money well spent as the Holland international has settled in well at United, scoring an impressive 13 goals this season.

"Did I fear I could lose him to City? No. I never thought that. And he's here now. He's mature. He's experienced. I don't think he needed a lot of time to settle in," Ferguson said in the Daily Star Sunday.

"The only thing he was short of was match fitness. He hadn't played. He played for half-an-hour in Hamburg for Arsenal in pre-season. That was it.

"So he came to us and although he had done his training, the required amount of training, he hadn't played.

"He was having to catch up. But game by game and with all the training he did here - he did extra training, too - he has got to where he is now.

"His fitness is really terrific and that experience he brings to the team has been brilliant. The threat he's given us up front has added to us. In the main, he has been brilliant for us.

"He has been very good for the young ones, too. He's brought great experience and I think he's relished coming here. I think he's enjoyed that."

Van Persie has reciprocated the love, calling Ferguson 'different class' for his speeches, which the Dutch ace feels give the squad a lift.

"I have to thank the manager for his speeches and the way he makes us ready for games. It's different class. Those speeches are very important for every single one of us," he said.

"The things he says and when he says them - before, during, or after a game - is all very direct. And it's all spot-on and honest. I love that because it is the Dutch way to be straight.

"The things the manager says are a big influence on us - and especially for me. He always says the right things at the right moment."

Jumat, 07 Desember 2012

Mancini: United are favourites

Roberto Mancini: Derby games are unpredictable

Mancini regularly compared his team unfavourably to United - and even wrote off their title chances at one point - only for them to pip their neighbours to the Premier League crown last season.

He denies that was a tactic to motivate his players and insists City, who now trail United by three points at the top, will be the underdogs at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Mancini said: "We can't change the history. We are here (for) only two years, playing together, and they are used to playing this game for the title race for 20 years.

"This is normal when you play against a team that won everything in the last 15 years.

"You can't change this in two or three years and you need more time. For this reason, they have a small advantage."

When asked specifically about this season's title battle, Mancini said: "In this moment United are favourites but the season is long.

"They were a strong team and (then) they bought (Robin) Van Persie and (Shinji) Kagawa. They put another player that scores 25 goals into the squad."

Last season's Manchester derbies had a significant bearing on the destiny of the title.

City's remarkable 6-1 win at Old Trafford gave them an extra edge in a race that was ultimately settled on goal difference.

Their victory at Eastlands in April then pulled them level on points at the top with just two games to go.

Had United won that night, City would have fallen six points behind.

That is a scenario that also faces them this weekend, albeit with much more of the season remaining.

Mancini said: "They can lose - they have three points more. We have three points less and we can't lose.

"But it is a derby, everything can happen, like last year. I think they are better than us in this moment but a derby is a derby.

"It is not the season because we have seven months after but it is important."

Van Persie has added considerably to Un ited's attacking armoury since his 27million summer move from Arsenal.

The Dutchman, who hit a remarkable 37 goals last season, has already struck 13 times for United.

The 29-year-old was reportedly of strong interest to City but opted for Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

City's own strikers have failed to match their standards from last season but Mancini claims missing out on Van Persie is not something that bothers him.

The Italian said: "No. In this moment, it is in the past, this.

"We have good players. If we improve this situation - in this moment we don't score a lot of goals - I am sure if we continue to work we can improve."

City, who hope to have playmaker David Silva back after a hamstring injury, go into the derby on the back of more European disappointment.

Their dismal campaign in the Champions League came to a sorry conclusion on Tuesday as they were beaten by Borussia Dortmund to miss out on a consolation spot in the Europa League.

There is a feeling that their failure to make the second-tier competition could benefit them in their domestic title defence but Mancini is not ready to acknowledge that yet.

He said: "Probably in February, March (it) could be because the difference is if you play Champions League you play Tuesday and Wednesday and you have three or four days to recover.

"If you play Europa League you don't have time to recover. You play Thursday night and after the game travel, then you play Sunday.

"This can be difficult but now we are upset for this (to be out)."

Despite being pitted in a tough group, the Champions League failure - in which City claimed just three points from six games - was a huge disappointment.

Mancini tried to make light of suggestions he is now under even greater pressure to defend the Premier League crown.

He said: "I don't know this. You need to ask him (owner).

"I am happy with my job in two ye ars here.

"I think that when you work and when you beat a team - sometimes you can have also a difficult moment.

"You can't win all the games and sometimes you can lose important games like in the Champions League, but this is normal for being on the top for a long time.

"Also Ferguson won his first trophy after seven years and his first Champions League after 14 years. I have another 12 years to win a Champions League!"

Gary Neville fears for Roberto Mancini's future if Manchester City don't win the title again

Gary Neville: Believes Mancini may be in trouble if Manchester City fails to ret

Mancini finds himself under pressure heading into Sunday's Manchester derby, more because of their failures in the Champions League than on the domestic front.

Victory over United at the Etihad Stadium would put them on top of the table on goal difference and they go into the game as the only unbeaten side in England's four divisions.

But combining their European troubles with the recent arrival of chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain, Neville feels Mancini's position is anything but secure.

"Roberto Mancini deserves more time but it is not a ridiculous suggestion to think City would not consider making a change if he doesn't win the league," said Neville at a Football Writers' Association Forum in Manchester.

"Whilst he continues to be successful he should stay in his job but it does feel like one day (Jose) Mourinho or (Pep) Guardiola will end up there.

"They have a new chief executive and a n ew director of football who presumably have the ear of the owner.

"It might be three or five years but eventually they will want to stamp their mark on the club and Mourinho and Guardiola have to be pretty high on the list."

Neville also believes Sir Alex Ferguson will continue as United manager for some time and does not feel the possible departure of Mourinho from Real Madrid this summer will hasten his exit.

"Whilst he wants to carry on, Sir Alex will not stand aside for anybody. He will decide when he doesn't want to do it anymore," Neville added.

"He is not the type of person who would just step aside so he could watch someone else manage his football team. It has been Alex Ferguson's last season for 15 years now. Unless it is the best kept secret in the world, nobody knows other than him."

Fergie wary of paying penalty

Sir Alex Ferguson: Penalty claim

The number of penalties City get at the Etihad Stadium has been the subject of debate for the past two years.

Since the start of 2010-11, they have been awarded 21 spot-kicks.

In the past three games on home soil alone they have got four, two against Aston Villa and one each in the draws with Real Madrid and Everton.

And, ahead of his own side's visit to City on Sunday, Ferguson has cheekily raised the issue.

"The number of penalty kicks they get - 21 in the last year or something like that," said Ferguson.

"If we got that number of penalty kicks there'd be an inquiry in the House of Commons. There'd be a protest."

Bizarrely though, United have had more than City this season, only to miss four of them.

It piles the pressure on referee Martin Atkinson ahead of this weekend's game, which Ferguson accepts has risen markedly in profile since the days when he claimed Liverpool were United's true rivals.

"Liverpool an d United games over the last 25 years have been unbelievable," said Ferguson.

"They've always been the most important games.

"It's shifted because at this moment Liverpool aren't challenging for the league like City are.

"City are our biggest threat and we're their biggest threat, so that's changed.

"Their fortunes changed the minute Sheikh Mansour took over.

"We know the minute that happened it was going to be a different ball game altogether.

"But, as we have in the past, we have to accept their challenge like we did when Chelsea came along and when Arsenal overtook Liverpool in the early 90s.

"We have to do it again."

Ferguson is still to discover whether Tom Cleverley will be fit after limping out of Wednesday's Champions League defeat to Cluj with a calf injury.

Antonio Valencia and Nani have already been ruled out, whilst faint hopes that both Shinji Kagawa and skipper Nemanja Vidic could be involved appear to have faded.

"I thought Kagawa may have done enough to make the bench on Wednesday but no, he's well short," said Ferguson.

"I don't think he'll be available until the Sunderland game next week.

"Nemanja Vidic is certainly doing well in training. It suits his own confidence to play but I think the game on Sunday is a bit soon for him.

"I think he'll also be ready for Sunderland."

Rabu, 05 Desember 2012

Balotelli compared to Mona Lisa

Mario Balotelli: Priceless, according to his agent

Speculation has swirled around the former Inter Milan player, who has started just one of City's last eight matches in all competitions through a combination of injury and non-selection.

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi fuelled further rumours on Tuesday night by confirming his interest in the 22-year-old ahead of a Champions League defeat to Zenit St Petersburg.

When asked to comment on rumours of a mooted bid for Balotelli in January, he told Sky Sport Italia: "No, it's not a dream. I never dream."

But the City forward's agent, Mino Raiola, was quick to diffuse talk of a big money move, saying Milan could not afford his client.

"No Italian club would be able to afford him," he told Sky Sport Italia. "Balotelli is as valuable as the Mona Lisa.

"And City have been very clear - they don't want to sell."

Milan head coach Massimiliano Allegri is a confirmed admirer and hinted he would like to see Balotelli play alongside Ros soneri youngster Stephan El Shaarawy, who has scored 14 goals in all competitions this season.

Allegri said: "I think they have done great things with the Italian national team.

"(Balotelli) is a great player with extraordinary physical and technical qualities. However, given his qualities, I believe he has thrown away a few years of his career."

Lescott: City not good enough

Joleon Lescott: Disappointed over European campaign

The Premier League champions lost 1-0 to Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, a result that ensured they would finish bottom of Group D, even missing out on a Europa League spot.

Their tally of three points from six games is the lowest ever by any English side in the Champions League - eclipsing Blackburn's haul of four in 1995/96.

They are also the first English team to go through an entire group stage campaign without picking up a victory.

Lescott is all too aware that City's displays in Europe have not been up to the required standard but is confident they can improve should they qualify for next year's competition.

"It hasn't been of a Man City standard this season so we are disappointed all round really," he told Sky Sports.

"We've adapted ourselves well at times but throughout the tournament we haven't consistently done well and it's not good enough.

"We need to continue to progress. Last year we made a good account of ourselv es and were unfortunate not to go through, but this year it wasn't to be and next year should we qualify I'm sure we will be equipped to do better."

Roberto Mancini's men have little time to feel sorry for themselves as Manchester United lie in wait in a huge Premier League encounter at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Lescott has dismissed fears City's European woes will hinder their league form, insisting they will be ready for the visit of their city rivals.

"We haven't done that great in the Champions League so far this season but it hasn't affected our Premier League form so there is no reason to suggest it should this weekend," added the former Everton and Wolves defender.

"We know it's a derby, it's a massive game and the chance to stay unbeaten and go top of the league."

AC Milan consider January transfer bid for Manchester City's Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli: Appears to have lost some of Roberto Mancini's trust

The former Inter Milan player's future is uncertain in England after starting just one of his club's last eight matches in all competitions, including only making a substitute appearance in Tuesday's defeat by Borussia Dortmund.

City boss Roberto Mancini has been a long-term fan of Balotelli but it appears his trust in the 24million summer 2010 signing is slipping after several negative headline-grabbing incidents.

And Milan could be ready to offer the Italy international a return to his homeland with a bid when the transfer window opens in less than a month.

Speaking before Milan's Champions League defeat by Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday night, boss Massimiliano Allegri said of Balotelli: "He is an important player with extraordinary physical and technical qualities.

"I believe, however, given his qualities, he threw away a few years of his career."

Allegri has also hinted current Milan star Stephan El Shaarawy and Balotelli would make a lethal attacking combination for the club.

"I think they have done good things with the Italian national team," said Allegri. "But I want to talk about AC Milan and the players I have. Then, in January, we will see what happens."

Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has also suggested a move for Balotelli is not just a fantasy after giving a teasing response when asked about the 22-year-old.

Berlusconi told Sky Sport Italia when questioned if Balotelli is a dream: "No, it's not a dream. I never dream."

Selasa, 04 Desember 2012

Joe Hart says Manchester City only have themselves to blame after European exit

City finished bottom of Group D, with their return of three points representing the worst ever performance from an English team in the competition's group stage.

"We have let ourselves down. We need to be winning," said Hart.

"I think Borussia and Real Madrid have done fantastic but we should be fighting until the last day to be in the competition and we weren't.

"We should have been in their position and we weren't. We've only got ourselves to blame.

"We've been disappointing in Europe but we've been fantastic in the league and consistent.

"So I don't think there are any worries about that but we need to address it to get in the Champions League again. Hopefully we can win the league then we'll be able to deal with it next year."

Senin, 03 Desember 2012

Jurgen Klopp not expecting Robert Lewandowski to leave for Manchester United

Robert Lewandowski: Linked with Manchester United move

It has been claimed that the prolific Poland international will join the Premier League club in a 12million deal at the end of the season.

It is suggested the price for the 24-year-old would be relatively cheap as he would be out of contract the following summer.

Klopp did not say it would not happen, but feels German football clubs are now in a much stronger position to resist overtures from their wealthy Premier League counterparts.

Klopp said: "I've no idea (about this). I'm not afraid he is going to be leaving us.

"Manchester United is one of many clubs that are going to be showing an interest in him. But the fact remains the contract is with us.

"The time when there were big, rich English clubs coming to lure German players away - thank God those times are over.

"No, I'm not afraid I'll be losing him and in the second half of the season he'll be with us."

The Bundesliga champions lost Shinji Kagawa to the Old Traf ford club last summer.

Klopp's immediate priority is a visit from United's rivals Manchester City in their final Champions League Group D match.

Dortmund are already through to the knockout stage as group winners while City are playing only for the consolation prize of a place in the Europa League.

Despite that, Klopp has no intention of taking it easy on the visitors at the Westfalenstadion.

He said: "This is a Champions League game.

"When a team is through, there is sometimes a temptation to rest players but that is not for us. We are going to play with a good team.

"It will be a high-tempo game and we have got to try to put a fresh team on the pitch, but obviously there will be changes."

Dortmund will be without defender Neven Subotic and midfielders Sebastian Kehl and Sven Bender through injury, while Mario Gotze, Lukasz Piszczek and Jakub Blaszczykowski could also miss out.

The two clubs fought out a pulsating 1-1 draw when they met at the Etihad Stadium earlier in the campaign.

Both sides had numerous chances in the first half before Dortmund went ahead in and dominated the second, only to be pegged back by a late penalty.

Klopp said: "The match at City was surely one of the best ever for a Borussia Dortmund team.

"We were extremely quick, ran extremely well and were tactically very strong.

"Normally you win such a game, but that was not the case then. As it turned out, it didn't do us much harm.

"I can't really say how tomorrow's game will develop because I have no idea how the (City) team will line up.

"The squad has huge quality, no matter who is playing, but I also know that the big Manchester derby is coming up this weekend.

"We will see where their priorities lie. You can't always play like we did in Manchester, but, of course, we should try."

Carlos Tevez's penalty saves Manchester City in 1-1 draw with Everton

Carlos Tevez: Converted from the penalty spot for Manchester City

Influential Toffees midfielder Fellaini drew first blood for the visitors on the 33rd minute at the Etihad Stadium as he saw his initial headed effort from close range parried by City goalkeeper Joe Hart before bundling home the rebound.

But Fellaini went from hero to villain 10 minutes later when referee Lee Probert pointed to the spot after he appeared to tug Edin Dzeko in the penalty box and Tevez made no mistake slotting home past Tim Howard down the middle.

The match took some while to warm up and City suffered an early blow as Aleksandar Kolarov limped off after just six minutes. Manager Roberto Mancini had opted to rest the hard-working Pablo Zabaleta but the in-form Argentinian was summoned from the bench straight away.

Everton's 33rd-minute opener came in familiar fashion as the ever-dangerous Leighton Baines, who passed a fitness test to feature, crossed and Fellaini eventually headed in.

Vincent Kompany did well to divert the cr oss away from Nikica Jelavic but it dropped for Fellaini, who headed home at the second attempt at the far post after Hart saved his initial effort. It was the Belgian's eighth goal of an impressive season.

That brought the game to life and City almost found an immediate equaliser as Tevez met a Samir Nasri cross with a deft header that Howard did well to save.

Gareth Barry then chested down another Nasri cross for Dzeko to turn and shoot but again Howard was alert.

Controversy followed the resulting corner as Dzeko tangled with Fellaini and went to ground. Referee Lee Probert sparked immediate protest from Everton by pointing to the spot and Toffees manager David Moyes clearly thought the award was harsh.

Tevez made no mistake as he stepped up to tuck home his eighth of the campaign.

City upped the tempo at the start of the second half but again it took time before the chances came, aside from a Tevez shot which was blocked by Phil Jagielk a.

Tevez also headed over but it was not until just after the hour that City seriously threatened again as Maicon burst down the field and forced Howard to parry a powerful 18-yard drive.

The game became scrappy as Everton's hard-working defence did their best to repel City's threat, then the Toffees went close in injury time from a Jelavic free-kick but Hart saved and the ball squirmed wide.


City had earlier decided to freshen up their attack by sending on Sergio Aguero, but the crowd were not happy that it was Tevez he replaced and boos rang around the ground.

Mario Balotelli had also entered the action for the last 10 minutes in place of Dzeko and did inject a bit of energy into the side but could not find the end result.

The result preserved City's prolonged run of home games without defeat to 37, a sequence stretching back to a loss to Everton two years ago.

It was also Everton's seventh draw in their last n ine games.


Manchester CityTeam StatisticsEverton
11st Half Goals1
5Shots on Target4
2Shots off Target3
3Blocked Shots2
2Yellow Cards1
0Red Cards0
84.2Passing Success79.4
85.7Tackles Success66.7
52.7Territorial Advantage47.3
545Total Passes379
32Total Crosses18
155Lost Balls143
1st Half Poss.49.9
68.32nd Half Poss.31.7

Hart sets aside derby thoughs

Joe Hart: We need to finish the CL group with pride

Attention will now switch the clash of the arch-rivals and title contenders at Etihad Stadium, when local pride and top spot in the Premier League will be at stake.

But before the sides meet, both have relatively minor Champions League business to take care of.

United face Cluj in a dead rubber while City, already eliminated from the competition, travel to Borussia Dortmund looking to secure a consolation spot in the Europa League.

Hart said: "We move on to the derby now, and we've obviously got Dortmund on Tuesday.

"We've got a tough one in Dortmund. We need to finish the Champions League group with a bit of pride.

"Hopefully we'll get a good result there and we'll get into that one (derby). We'll deal with that when it comes."

City trail United by three points heading into the derby but remain unbeaten after a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Everton at Eastlands.

The champions needed to come from behind after Marouane Fell aini turned in a deflected Leighton Baines cross at the second attempt after 33 minutes.

Their equaliser came from a controversial penalty before the break after Fellaini was adjudged to have fouled Edin Dzeko at a corner.

It was a soft award and led to protests from Everton but Carlos Tevez made no mistake from the spot.

Hart saved well from a Fellaini header and a Nikica Jelavic free-kick in the final moments of each half but City generally dominated the second period.

The result extended City's unbeaten home run in the Premier League to 37 games.

Hart said: "It's a great record - one we need to keep going, but with more wins than draws.

"It was a tough game. It is always going to be tough against Everton. We'd like to win but we haven't lost.

"They are a good team, they work for each other. They have got some good players and a good manager, and all that added together makes them a tough team to play against."

Maicon predicts European glory

Maicon: City working towards CL glory

City have again failed to impress in Europe's elite competition this season and are condemned to a group stage exit for a second successive year.

But Maicon, who won the Champions League with Inter Milan in 2010, believes it is only a matter of time before the Premier League winners crack it in Europe.

The Brazil international said: "There is nothing missing at City. It is a great club and is working to get better in the Champions League. You can see us progressing on a monthly basis.

"The club is growing all the time, and sooner or later City will win the Champions League because everyone is working for that.

"The big difference is that here you have to play in the Premier League as well as trying to do well in the Champions League. It is a very different competition.

"They are great players here, but they need more experience of the Champions League.

"You have to tune in to playing in Europe, as it is very different to play ing in your home league."

City face Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion in the final Group D match of their doomed campaign this week.

Although qualification is no longer at stake for either side - the Germans are already confirmed as group winners - City can still secure the consolation of a place in the Europa League.

To do that they will need to win and hope that Ajax fail to secure maximum points from their trip to Real Madrid.

Maicon said: "We are playing for pride on Tuesday, but also for practical reasons, because we want to carry on playing in Europe, even if it is not in the top competition.

"The Europa League is important to us, so we need to try to stay in Europe until the end of the season if we can."

Maicon is now starting to find a role at City after being hampered by a foot injury following his August arrival from Inter.

The 31-year-old has started four of the last five games and feels City's attacking phi losophy fits his game well.

He said: "I am enjoying life in Manchester - everything's fine. I am a family man so the first thing that is important to me I that my family is okay.

"When they are settled, as they are now, my mind is only on training.

"I am training very well, to contribute to the team.

"The team is full of quality players, and the way City play they give the full-backs the ball and get them to attack. This suits my game.

"I am only sorry that I couldn't contribute at the start of the season because of my injury.

"Little by little I am getting back to my best, and trying to add something to the team."

Minggu, 02 Desember 2012

Reds away, Saints host holders

FA Cup: Draw for third round made on Sunday

The draw for the third round of the competition was made at Wembley on Sunday by Fabrice Muamba and Ledley King.

Two non-league sides must fight it out for the right to host Liverpool.

Lincoln and Mansfield drew 3-3 at Sincil Bank on Saturday and the replay will carry the bounty of a lucrative home meeting with Brendan Rodgers' men.

Rafael Benitez's Chelsea will begin their defence of the trophy with a tough-looking all-Premier League tie at St Mary's.

The two sides have yet to meet in the league this season and last met in the FA Cup in 1977 when Saints knocked out the Blues in a third-round replay.

Perhaps the most attractive third-round tie, though, sends Manchester United to West Ham.

Sir Alex Ferguson's 11-time winners beat the Hammers 1-0 in the league last week, but the two have enjoyed some memorable cup battles over the years, including when Paolo Di Canio scored the only goal of a surprise 1-0 West Ham win in 2001.< /p>

Premier League champions Manchester City host Gianfranco Zola's Watford, while Arsenal, whose last trophy was the 2005 FA Cup, must head to Swansea, the side who sent them off their own field to a chorus of boos with a 2-0 win on Saturday.

There is a tie for the nostalgics at White Hart Lane where Tottenham have been paired with Coventry, evoking memories of City's famous 3-2 final win over Spurs in 1987.

Everton face would-be giant-killers in the form of Cheltenham or Hereford, who play on Monday.

Elsewhere for the Premier League sides, 2011 finalists Stoke head to Championship leaders Crystal Palace, Newcastle travel to Brighton who beat them last season, and Fulham are at home to Blackpool.

Seven-time winners Aston Villa welcome Ipswich to the midlands, Bournemouth travel to Wigan and Reading go to Crawley, whose director of football is former Royals boss Steve Coppell.

Bottom-of-the-table QPR lock horns with West Brom, Norwich go to Championship strugglers Peterborough and 1973 winners Sunderland are at Bolton.

Hastings United, the lowest-ranked team left, have the lure of a trip to Middlesbrough if they beat Harrogate Town in a replay, while Barrow or Macclesfield will be at home to Cardiff.

The other games put Charlton up against Huddersfield, Barnsley against Burnley, Leicester against Burton and Millwall against Preston.

League One leaders Tranmere go to Derby, Aldershot face Rotherham or Notts County, Sheffield United head to Accrington or Oxford and Nottingham Forest play Oldham.

Hull boss Steve Bruce, a winner with Manchester United, will host Leyton Orient, Blackburn meet Bristol City, Leeds and Birmingham lock horns, Bury or Southend meet Bradford or Brentford, Wolves go to Luton and finally, MK Dons go to Sheffield Wednesday after beating AFC Wimbledon 2-1.

FA Cup third-round draw in full:

Crystal Palace v Stoke, Brighton v Newcastle, Tottenham v C oventry, Wigan v Bournemouth, Fulham v Blackpool, Aston Villa v Ipswich, Charlton v Huddersfield, Barrow or Macclesfield v Cardiff, Barnsley v Burnley, Manchester City v Watford, Swansea v Arsenal, Leicester v Burton Albion, Millwall v Preston, Cheltenham Town or Hereford United v Everton, Derby v Tranmere, Crawley v Reading, Aldershot v Rotherham or Notts County, Middlesbrough v Harrogate Town or Hastings United, Accrington or Oxford United v Sheffield United, Southampton v Chelsea, QPR v West Brom, Peterborough v Norwich, Lincoln City or Mansfield v Liverpool, Bolton v Sunderland, Nottingham Forest v Oldham, West Ham v Manchester United, Hull City v Leyton Orient, Blackburn v Bristol City, Leeds United v Birmingham, Bury or Southend v Bradford or Brentford, Luton v Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday v MK Dons.

Ties to be played over the weekend of 5 and 6 January, 2013.

Watzke: England lacks romance

Sheikh Mansour: Manchester City owner

Bundesliga clubs have to adhere to the "50% plus one" rule, which means they are owned by their members, whereas several top-flight English clubs have been bought by individuals, or companies, from overseas.

One prominent example is City, whose takeover by the Abu Dhabi Investment Group funded by Sheikh Mansour led to an enormous investment in the playing staff which culminated in the north-west club winning their first English title in 44 years last season.

Dortmund take on City in the Champions League on Tuesday night. Of their opponents, Watzke told the Guardian: "I am a little bit romantic, and that is not romantic.

"In England people seem not to be interested in this - at Liverpool they are fine for the club to belong to an American. But the German is romantic: when there is a club, he wants to have the feeling it is my club, not the club of Qatar or Abu Dhabi."

He added: "Germans want to have that sense of belonging. When you give [t he supporters] the feeling that they are your customers, you have lost. In Germany, we want everybody to feel it is their club, and that is really important.

"In former times in England I think the relationship between the club and supporters was very strong. Our people come to the stadium like they are going to their family. Here, the supporters say: it's ours, it's my club."

Dortmund have had their financial ups-and-downs, almost going bankrupt in 2005, but now arguably boast one of the most successful models in Europe - producing exciting young players like Mario Gotze and Nuri Sahin and having the opportunity to sell them on for great profit.

Added to cheap ticket prices which produce regular 80,000 crowds at their imposing stadium, they are the envy of many clubs across the continent.

"Here, it is our way to have cheap tickets, so young people can come," Watzke said.

"We would make 5 million euros more a season if we had seats, but the re was no question to do it, because it is our culture. In England it is a lot more expensive. Football is more than a business."

Roberto Mancini not feeling under pressure at Manchester City despite Jose Mourinho link

Roberto Mancini: Not paying attention to rumours about Jose Mourinho

Speculation has suggested that Mourinho could be set to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season, and he has been connected with a number of clubs.

Manchester City has been mooted as a possible destination, with Mourinho regularly hinting that he would like to return to work in English football.

However, Mancini stressed earlier this week that he still had the backing of City's owners despite bowing out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage for a second straight year.

And the Italian is not feeling threatened by any talk about Mourinho as he remains focused on the task ahead at City.

"I read one day that Mourinho is going to Paris Saint-Germain. The next day it's Inter, then Manchester City, Manchester United and then Chelsea," said Mancini.

"I am very happy for him. I think he is working well in what he is trying to do.

"But I don't feel under any pressure at City. I am disappointed we are out of the Champions Le ague, but this is football."

Sabtu, 01 Desember 2012

Roberto Mancini turns on his quartet of strikers after Manchester City's draw with Everton

Roberto Mancini: Not happy with goal tally from his strikers

Marouane Fellaini's first-half strike gave the visitors a deserved lead, but the Belgian then conceded a penalty for a challenge on Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez tucked away the spot-kick.

But City were unbale to breach Everton's discplined defence in the second half, and Mancini was not happy with the finishing of his front men.

"Everton is always a difficult game because they work hard, they defend very well," he said. "In the second half we played better, probably deserved to score another goal.

"In the end we are not happy but the season is long and this doesn't change anything. If you don't pay attention you can lose three points and it is sometimes better to take one.

"In this moment we are not very strong with our strikers. We need them to score more goals. They are four top strikers but this can happen during the season.

"It is important they work hard like they worked today. Dzeko, Tevez, Sergio (Aguero), Mario (Balotelli) - in this moment we are like this but I think we will solve this problem."

The home crowd turned on Mancini when Aguero replaced Tevez rather than the ineffective Dzeko in the second half, but he added: "I have my reason for this. I am not stupid. I understand the supporters.

"For the supporters, if I put on four strikers and take off four defenders, they are happy. But football is not like this. Everton can score only on set-pieces. I needed one or two players that could also help the defenders in this situation.

"I also thought that Dzeko could score one goal in that moment, not because Carlo played worse than Dzeko. Carlo played very well."

Jumat, 30 November 2012

QPR join big guns on agents' fees list

QPR and Chelsea: Among the big spenders on agents' fees

City were the biggest spenders on 10,537,982 - up from 9,663,700 - with Liverpool second having shelled out 8,600,444 - an increase from 7,000,242.99.

But it was Rangers, who brought in a number of high-profile signings over the summer including Julio Cesar, Park Ji sung, Jose Bosingwa and Esteban Granero, whose payments stood out, with their figure having almost trebled from 2,499,214 in 2010/11.

Tottenham (6,595,905) were fourth on the list, followed by Champions League winners Chelsea (6,490,382), Arsenal (5,580,873) and West Ham (4,436,992), while Manchester United's figure dropped to 3,681,580 from 4,457,103.

Promoted Southampton had the lowest figure (646,106), with Swansea - last year's lowest spenders - second-bottom of the list despite their payments having risen from 248,633 to 1,100,845.

The overall amount spent by the 20 top-flight clubs was 77,003,130 (806 transactions), compared to 71,868,749.94 (765 transactions) for the pre vious 12 months.

Payments made by each Premier League club to agents in the period October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012 (amounts shown include payments made by clubs on behalf of players):

Arsenal 5,580,873

Aston Villa 2,730,539

Chelsea 6,490,382

Everton 3,092,891

Fulham 2,581,208

Liverpool 8,600,444

Manchester City 10,537,982

Manchester United 3,681,580

Newcastle 3,485,503

Norwich 1,248,725

QPR 6,818,688

Reading 2,167,833

Southampton 646,106

Stoke 1,717,266

Sunderland 2,173,762

Swansea 1,100,845

Tottenham 6,595,905

West Brom 1,341,301

West Ham 4,436,992

Wigan 1,974,305

Total: 77,003,130

Payments made by each Premier League club to agents in the period October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011:

Arsenal 4,648,532.17

Aston Villa 3,163,320

Blackburn 4,227,056.93

Bolton 1,941,896.08

Chelse a 6,457,747.37

Everton 2,931,127.10

Fulham 951,245.50

Liverpool 7,000,242.99

Manchester City 9,663,700

Manchester United 4,457,103

Newcastle 6,380,488

Norwich 710,251.75

QPR 2,499,214

Stoke 2,207,698.11

Sunderland 3,735,384.29

Swansea 248,633

Tottenham 7,571,815.27

West Brom 1,305,576.38

Wigan 659,800

Wolves 1,107,918

Total: 71,868,749.94

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson says title race is not down to two clubs

Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini: In agreement over the title race

Leaders United have a one-point advantage over reigning champions and neighbours City, with Chelsea and West Brom breathing down their necks six points further adrift.

Many critics are already ruling out the title credentials of a spluttering Chelsea side guided by new interim boss Rafa Benitez.

But Ferguson said: "It's early-season. It's only the end of November, so I don't think you can be certain by saying it's a two-horse race at this time.

"Over the years, we've always hoped the top five, or top six, are all capable of winning the league but eventually it ends up being a two-horse race.

"Year after year it's been like that, when you look at the space between the top two teams and the rest last year, the gap between ourselves and City.

"The important thing is you look at yourself. You need to stay up there all the time and this is not an easy league to do that."

City boss Mancini echoed similar sentiments, adding: "I think Chelsea could win. In this moment I think it's a three-horse race but it's difficult to say.

"It's difficult to say this because the season is long and I think in February when the Champions League starts then everything can change."

Kamis, 29 November 2012

Mancini pleased for Balotelli

Mario Balotelli: Celebrates at Wigan

The Italian hit his first goal in the Premier League since March to turn an evenly-fought clash at the DW Stadium in City's favour after 69 minutes.

City went on to win 2-0 after substitute James Milner struck a superb second goal three minutes later before leaving the field injured.

Balotelli had been making his first start in his six games and his first since being dropped by Mancini for his attitude in training ahead of the clash with Tottenham earlier this month.

Since then the Italian has been troubled by a back injury and he endured a largely frustrating night on a cold night in Wigan, including missing a simple headed chance, before his decisive goal.

Ali Al Habsi was unable to hold a low shot from Gareth Barry and Balotelli reacted quickly to smash in the rebound at the second attempt.

Mancini said of Balotelli: "I am very happy for him because he scored his first goal this year. He scored an important goal.

"I hope h e can improve in the next week and the next game."

Mancini had considered taking Balotelli off in order to change a game in which Wigan more than held their own, but instead opted to remove his strike partner Sergio Aguero.

Mancini said: "We thought Mario or Sergio but Mario in this moment is maybe more fresh than Sergio.

"Sergio has played all the games and for this reason we changed. Also Mario moved well.

"He didn't play like he knows but in this position Mario was better in this moment."

Milner spent just 21 minutes on the field before leaving with a hamstring injury and will be assessed in the coming days.

City should have had a third when Maicon shot wide but Wigan's confident play had troubled City throughout the first hour and they had several good chances to go ahead.

One of them came shortly before Balotelli struck as an unmarked Arouna Kone diverted a header wide.

Kone, Jean Beausejour and Jordi Gomez had all gone close in the first half.

Latics boss Roberto Martinez said: "From our point of view, I think we edged the game for 60 minutes.

"The disappointment is we couldn't get the first goal in that period.

"But I loved the attitude, effort and personality that we showed. We kept showing that desire.

"It was a very pleasing performance from many aspects but we are still disappointed.

"I don't want to be a Wigan Athletic representative saying we are happy to lose with a good performance against the champions. That is not accepted any more.

"It is not good enough for us. We are disappointed we couldn't get a positive result."