Jumat, 14 September 2012

Good time for Brit trip - Mancini

Mancini: City travel to Stoke on Saturday

City dropped what might have proved two vital points in their ultimately successful title bid when they last visited the Britannia Stadium in the Barclays Premier League in March.

That game came amid a difficult spell for City in which their championship hopes seemed to have been lost as they fell eight points behind Manchester United.

Yet after staging a dramatic recovery in the closing weeks of the season to pip United on goal difference, their fightback from 1-0 down to secure a point at Stoke was seen in a different light.

Nevertheless, Mancini is glad the notoriously tricky trip is coming when there is less pressure and, such is the anticipated difficulty, next week's mouth-watering clash against Real Madrid is at the back of his mind.

Mancini said: "We need to think only about Stoke because we never win there - it is a difficult pitch - but it is better we have this game now than the end, like last year."

City have not won at S toke since both clubs were in the third tier in 1999 and have never triumphed at the Britannia Stadium.

Six months ago they were grateful for a Yaya Toure equaliser after Peter Crouch had struck with a stunning long-range volley.

Mancini said: "Stoke is one of the worst pitches [grounds] in the Premier League because it is very difficult to play there. They are a strong team.

"For us, it is very difficult, but not only for us, for all the teams. It is important we try to play football like we do.

"I think that they have good players because this year they have changed, they have brought in good players.

"They are very strong, they are tall, but with this kind of football they stay always in the Premier League.

"For them, this is important. They have good players with experience.

"We have experience for this, all our players know this game, and we know it will be a tough game."

Adding to Mancini's difficulties preparing for the match has been the recent international break.

City made five signings on transfer deadline day last month but Mancini has had to wait a fortnight for the opportunity to work with all his players together.

Mancini said: "After international break, every game is difficult.

"We had six or seven players here and we worked for one week with those players. Today is the first training session with all the players."

Mancini expects some tiredness but hopes now after bolstering his ranks with the likes of Maicon, Javi Garcia, Scott Sinclair and Matija Nastasic, he has the squad depth to cover that.

He said: "Always is the wrong time for the international break but we have a lot of players.

"I am sure that someone is tired but we haven't time to recover."

On the positive side, no players have returned from international duty carrying new injuries ahead of a game in which Stoke could hand a debut to former England striker Michae l Owen.

Forward Sergio Aguero, City's top scorer last season, is also hoping to prove his fitness after resuming training following a knee injury.

The Argentinian, who was forced off in the season-opening defeat of Southampton at the Etihad Stadium, will be given a fitness test.

Mancini said: "We try this morning with Sergio and after training we decide. He is getting better - maybe."

Fellow forward Mario Balotelli is cleared to play after undergoing laser eye surgery.

The Italian had encountered difficulty wearing his contact lenses after being affected by conjunctivitis.

Mancini said: "Mario is okay - Mario now sees everything."

England midfielder Gareth Barry is close to returning after overcoming the abdominal problem that kept him out of Euro 2012 but this weekend's game will come too soon. Micah Richards remains out with an ankle injury.

Mancini must also consider how many of his new players to hand debuts to.

He said: "Garcia is okay, Maicon the same, no problem. Nastasic arrived yesterday for the first session. They are all okay.

"Today is the first training together after the international break. After this training session we will decide."

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