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."

Nastasic enjoying life at City

Matija Nastasic: Impressed in win over Wigan

The 19-year-old, who joined City from Serie A side Fiorentina this summer, impressed in the 2-0 Premier League win over Wigan at the DW Stadium on Wednesday night.

Mario Balotelli, who made his first start in six matches, gave City the lead in the 69th minute before substitute James Milner hit a stunning second three minutes later to seal the win.

While Balotelli was busy writing headlines with his first Premier League goal of the season, Nastasic continued to quietly forge a solid defensive partnership with Vincent Kompany at the other end of the pitch, even though Joleon Lescott was available for selection after returning from injury.

The composed teenager has been in good form and has become a key part of a City defence that has kept five clean sheets in their last six league games.

However, while the Serbian says he is enjoying the English game, he is still learning alongside one of the best defenders in the business in the form of Kom pany.

"It's going very well. I'm very happy. The road is the right one and I think I'm going the right way," Nastasic said.

"I've been here for the last two or three months and, yes, I am playing with Vinnie (Kompany) but the other guys are good - Joleon, Kolo (Toure) - and they can also play well but I'm feeling good.

"We (Vincent and I) talk every day on the pitch and on the training ground, and it makes me happy to play alongside such an excellent captain and in such a good team.

"I do like the way the English game is because it is quite quick. In Italy it is a little bit slower but I do like it and I prefer to pay in a quick game.

"Whatever I am learning, I am learning along with Vinnie."

City boss Mancini was satisfied with Wednesday night's result in what was an evenly fought match, although it was not all good news for the Italian as Milner picked up a hamstring injury.

Milner spent just 21 minutes on the field before b eing forced off and will be assessed in the coming days.

"Against Wigan is is always a difficult game like last year but in the end we deserved to win," Mancini said.

"Maybe we didn't play like we did against Chelsea but we played good football.

"James scored a good goal and played very well. We are disappointed with his hamstring but hope he recovers quickly."

It was a game of contrasting fortunes for Wigan boss Roberto Martinez, who saw his side come away empty-handed despite creating clear-cut chances.

Arouna Kone wasted their best chance when he put a header wide before City broke and took the lead when Balotelli snaffled a rebound.

"I thought we were really strong and well-organised, especially in the first half, not allowing Man City to find any rhythm," Martinez said.

"We then found ourselves in probably the best situations in the game to take the lead but couldn't find that final ball to take advantage and when you're playing well in those periods you need to score the first goal.

"Their first goal was a real setback and then moments later we conceded a goal which is an outstanding strike from outside the box, but in terms of the work ethic and the way in which we stopped the opposition for long periods, I was very pleased.

"Sometimes when you perform well against these sides and end up on the losing side it can be too easy to accept the outcome, but the dressing room is very disappointed to have not taken a result and we need to learn now how to take advantage of those situations before the opposition does."

Rabu, 28 November 2012

Latics look to end City run

Manchester City: Unbeaten in the Premier League this season

Roberto Mancini's men have not tasted defeat in their last 19 league games, a sequence which includes the final six matches of last season's successful title run-in.

They extended what is a club record run in the competition with a goalless draw at Chelsea on Sunday, although it was not enough to see them regain top spot.

Naturally it is something they want to maintain but, speaking ahead of the Wigan clash, Mancini's number two David Platt played down its significance.

The first-team coach said: "The unbeaten run is there, it becomes a thing people talk about, but it counts for nothing if you are drawing games and drawing games and drawing games.

"We see that after 13 games, we are still a point behind (Manchester) United, who have lost three games but have also got 10 victories.

"We will try to protect the unbeaten run, but not to the point where we are going to stop trying to win games.

"It gives you a confidence that you are difficult to beat but that is all it does."

Platt landed himself in trouble last week when he was sent to the stands during City's Champions League clash with Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.

He is now banned from the touchline for next week's final Group D game at Borussia Dortmund, a match from which the best City can do is secure a consolation place in the Europa League.

Platt said: "It's a mistake of mine. I grumbled about the referee to the fourth official.

"Letter of the law says you can't do that, and I accept the responsibility and the decision."

Platt, speaking at a press conference to preview the Wigan game, had words of support for winger Scott Sinclair, who is still to make an impact since his August move to City.

The 23-year-old Great Britain Olympic player, signed for a reported 6.2million, has made just five appearances.

Platt said: "Every player wants to feature more, and Scott is doing fine.

"He h as done well when he has come on, and when he has started games as well, but we have a big squad and everyone is aware of that."

City are still without left-back Gael Clichy due to an ankle injury while right-back Micah Richards remains sidelined following knee surgery last month.

There remains uncertainty over when he will return with the player having feared a lay-off of up to four months, but Mancini delivering a far more optimistic assessment.

Platt said: "Micah is progressing. Our immediate concern is always for players who are on the horizon to come back and Micah is not quite there yet.

"In terms of getting back to playing, without knowing, even if he gets back on the training pitch in two or three weeks, it is probably going to be a three-month thing."

Selasa, 27 November 2012

Platt hails 'exceptional' Nastasic

Matija Nastasic: Praised by David Platt

Earlier this month Mancini walked into one of his press conferences wearing a Platt mask, a jovial reference to his recent habit of asking his number two to speak on his behalf.

And it was Platt again who addressed reporters as City previewed their midweek Premier League trip to Wigan.

The former England midfielder claimed it had nothing to do with the fact it was the Italian's birthday, but said there was work to do with the game coming just three days after the last.

Platt said: "It's not just his birthday, the games are coming thick and fast and his words are in the system."

Platt went on to speak positively about the champions' defence, with Sunday's goalless draw at Chelsea bringing a fifth clean sheet in seven Premier League games.

Among their key performers has been 19-year-old defender Nastasic, who is now blocking the return of fit-again England centre-back Joleon Lescott to the team.

The Serbian, signed from Fiorent ina on deadline day in August, has started the last seven matches in all competitions.

Lescott missed part of that sequence with a back injury but has been back in contention for the last three games.

Platt said: "That is testament to him (Nastasic). He has stepped in. The first couple of games he has had to get used to English football but he has done that very quickly.

"The really, really good performance - he has had several good ones - but the real one where it might have been a bit alien to him was when we went down to West Ham.

"You knew the ball was coming in, they were hitting the diagonal balls towards Andy Carroll and I thought he acquitted himself exceptionally well.

"You get that a lot in the Premier League that you don't get in Serie A and it shows there is an old head on young shoulders to adapt to that."

Lescott did not even make the bench at Stamford Bridge with Kolo Toure preferred as back-up central defender, but Pl att does not think much should read into that.

He said: "Joleon is fine. He will be available for selection like he was available for selection at the weekend.

"He has been available for selection for a few games, but we can only put 11 on the pitch."

City also have no worries about the fitness of key defender and captain Vincent Kompany.

There were suggestions the Belgian could be rested after defying the knee injury suffered in last week's Champions League clash against Real Madrid to play 90 minutes at Chelsea.

But the 26-year-old, who was outstanding at Stamford Bridge, has not suffered any reaction that would prevent him playing again.

Platt said: "It's not a case of it being too much at all. Vinnie would have still been feeling the effects of the injury that he picked up last Wednesday in the game but he got through the game and got through it very well.

"We don't really have any concerns for him tomorrow night."

While City were solid at the weekend, they were also frustrated at their failure to convert any chances.

They have not reproduced the brilliance of the early part of their last campaign, when by this stage, 13 games, they had scored 43 goals, 11 more than their current tally.

Platt said: "You can't draw comparisons to last season. I don't know how many goals we are down from last season, but we were setting records left, right and centre last season so that was a false thing.

"We would like to have a few more of course because it would have got those extra victories, but 13 games gone, one point off the top, still unbeaten; there's enough in there to be pleased about."

Platt is taking little notice of the league table ahead of the clash at the DW Stadium.

Wigan have won just four games and remain in the lower reaches of the table, but Platt feels they have produced some eye-catching play.

"They are all tricky games," he said. "Wigan have a great deal of belief in themselves and have even when they haven't got results.

"Roberto Martinez puts that into his teams. He wants them to play, they make the field very big when in possession and because of that they can cause you problems."

Senin, 26 November 2012

Milner: City lacked cutting edge

James Milner: City were disappointed not to win

City were unable to reclaim top spot in the Premier League on Sunday as they endured a frustrating time in front of goal against their title rivals at Stamford Bridge.

While some may see that as further proof City are still lacking the dynamism of last season, they remain unbeaten and Milner views it as a good sign that they are disappointed with such a result.

The 26-year-old told City TV: "Any time you come away from a ground like this, against the European champions, and end up being disappointed not to get a win is a positive thing.

"We were the better side, we had the better chances and restricted them to not too many.

"I thought we played a good game and didn't quite get the three points.

"We have got things to work on. We need to take our chances - we had a number of corners and chances that didn't go our way.

"When we are on top in games and have territory and chances we are not quite putting teams to bed like we shou ld be.

"Hopefully we can improve on that during the season.

"There are positives and negatives to take out of the game."

Milner, who made his first Premier League start since being sent off at West Brom a month ago, did not feel there was anything wrong with City's approach to the game.

Roberto Mancini's men now trail rivals Manchester United by a point at the summit ahead of a midweek round of fixtures which sees the champions travel to Wigan.

Milner said: "It shows mental strength because sometimes, when you have those days, it is easy to think it's not our day and sit back and let the other team into the game and have chances themselves.

"I don't think we did that. We were pretty solid and moved the ball around pretty well.

"The pitch wasn't the greatest but we tried to be positive and it just didn't happen for us at the business end."

The game was short on entertainment with Chelsea managing just one shot on target and City five. Most of the headlines were made by the home fans' negative reaction to the arrival of their new manager Rafael Benitez.

The visitors' best opportunity came when Sergio Aguero headed at Petr Cech late in the first half.

Another area City shaded was the corner count, having 11 to their hosts' six.

Milner said: "When you are on top of teams you are going to have set-pieces.

"We have got quality delivery with 'Kolar' (Aleksandar Kolarov) and David (Silva) and people like that.

"We need to maybe come up with a few new things and make sure we attack that ball. I'm sure the goals will come."

Carlos Tevez disqualified from driving

Carlos Tevez: Manchester City striker disqualified from driving

The 28-year-old Argentinian mimicked driving a vehicle after he scored twice in City's 5-0 win at home to Aston Villa in the Premier League on 17 November.

Two days earlier his Porsche Panamera was impounded in Manchester as he could not produce a full UK driving licence.

Lancaster magistrates have now imposed an interim ban on Tevez for a separate matter in which he failed to provide information when his car was clocked speeding in Morecambe.

It is understood his vehicle was caught breaking the speed limit in the town on 28 March when he played for City's reserves against Morecambe Reserves.

His solicitor, Gwyn Lewis, told the court his client, who was not in court, accepted he did not provide identification - which carries six penalty points - and that under the totting-up procedure he was now liable for disqualification.

Mr Lewis said: "My instructions are though he was not the driver on that occasion I am not going to argue agai nst a ban on grounds of exceptional hardship."

He asked the magistrates to impose an interim disqualification and adjourn sentencing so that the "no licence case" from Manchester could be dealt with at the same time.

The magistrates agreed and listed the matter in Lancaster for 20 December when the length of the suspension will be set.

Roberto Mancini says Manchester City 'too soft' in Stamford Bridge stalemate

Roberto Mancini: Wants his players to be stronger

Rafa Benitez was unable to lead Chelsea to victory in his first fixture in charge, which saw Sergio Aguero go closest in a game of few chances.

"I think we play very well but are missing a goal," Mancini said. "We had a lot of chances but were missing the last pass or shot.

"When you are near the box you should be very strong, if you are soft you cannot score.

"We dominated the first half, second half Chelsea did better, but we need to be strong, we were too soft.

"Games here are always hard but today we played well while missing the last pass.

"Last year we lost a good game, this year we took one point. I am not happy but I prefer this."

Asked if it was a point gained or two dropped, Mancini replied: "Two dropped."

His counterpart Rafa Benitez was roundly booed in his first game as interim Chelsea boss.

Mancini admitted he had never heard such booing for a new manager from his own supporters.

He said: "I work with another team. But I can say it's very difficult for him and for his team to play well.

"I don't think that Rafa is a magician. I don't think he can change everything in a few days.

"Weeks ago, Chelsea were on top and playing well. They have good players. Every manager needs time."

Minggu, 25 November 2012

Vincent Kompany pleased to come through Man City's draw at Chelsea

The Belgian star was a major doubt for the SuperSunday clash at Stamford Bridge after suffering an ankle injury against Real Madrid in midweek.

But Kompany played the 90-minutes for City and had a starring role as they played out a goalless draw.

"I was on crutches just 48 hours ago," Kompany said.

"I wanted to play for the team. I had said that I wouldn't play if I couldn't give everything I had on the pitch. But I am happy I was able to take part, because it was not the most comfortable game."

Kompany was pleased to have kept Chelsea at bay, in a solid defensive display, adding: "It's always a difficult away game. I don't think there are many times we come here and win.

"In the end it was a draw and as a defender I am happy with a clean sheet - I guess that's what I'm going to take out of the game.

"Our last performance against Real Madrid wasn't as bad as what the table shows at the moment. But this is another big game out of the way for us and we look forward to the other games and we feel that we can do enough to win a lot of games from here until the end of the season."

AC Milan rule out swap deal involving Alexandre Pato and Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli: Will not be heading back to Milan in an exchange deal

Berlusconi has made no secret of his admiration for Manchester City striker Balotelli, with comments attributed to him sparking transfer speculation.

He would welcome the opportunity to bring the former Inter striker back to Milan, but is adamant that no swap deal would be sanctioned.

Pato is the man reports suggest Milan would be willing to part with in order to bring Balotelli on board, but Berlusconi insists the Brazil international will be going nowhere.

He told Milan Channel: "An exchange involving Pato and Balotelli? I don't like exchanges.

"Pato is definitely not on the market. He is one of our best players and has the opportunity to become an icon here over many years.

"Unfortunately, his frequent injuries have been a problem, but we just need to handle him right.

"AC Milan is the perfect setting for him."

Patrick Vieira believes Manchester City will challenge for European honours in the future

Patrick Vieira: Feels Manchester City are still finding their feet in Europe

City are the reigning Premier League champions, but they have slipped out of the Champions League at the group stage in each of the last two seasons.

Vieira, who is now football development executive at the Etihad Stadium, accepts that continental failings have come as a disappointment.

He is, however, keen to point out that experience is as important as money when it comes to competing for the biggest prizes in world football.

World Cup winner Vieira, who represented Arsenal and City during his playing days, said: "I truly believe that with stability we can win a lot of trophies.

"The Champions League has been another disappointment, it's true. We are learning, again. This is only our second participation.

"How many years did it take Arsenal to get past this level? In the nine seasons I spent there, I reached one quarter-final.

"The first participations for Manchester United were complicated, and Chelsea also had to show pat ience before winning the competition."


Vieira added: "For two years running we have been in the most difficult group.

"That said, we cannot hide - the team has not shown its true face.

"In the Champions League, it is not only the team, but the club that must learn to understand the environment, the pressure and the media.

"It is why you almost always find historical clubs in the last four."

Sabtu, 24 November 2012

Mancini not feeling City pressure

Roberto Mancini: Suffering European heartache again

City can longer no longer reach the knockout stages of the Champions League after collecting just three points from their first five group games.

Mancini's men made amends for a similar failure last season by going on to win their first league title in 44 years and the focus will now shift mainly to repeating that success.

With expectations continuing to rise at the Etihad Stadium, it was suggested to Mancini that the pressure on him to achieve that will be greater than a year ago, but he disagrees.

The Italian said: "I think we could be disappointed because we wanted to go and play the February stage in the Champions League, because we have good players and these players probably deserved to play in this competition.

"But we don't have pressure. We know we have a chance to win if we stay together in a difficult moment like now, but we do not have pressure because we went out of the Champions League."

For all their vast wealth, powe r and status as Premier League champions, City remain novices on the Champions League stage.

Although some of the European performances have been lacklustre, Mancini feels it is sometimes forgotten how far the club have come over the last few years.

He said: "We are Manchester City - we are not Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, who are used to winning every year for 100 years and have big histories.

"We are Manchester City and for 35 years we didn't win. Now in two years we won three trophies and I think that is good for us.

"It is clear we want to win every year if possible but this is impossible because in football only one team will win the Premier League and the Champions League. The other teams can't win."

With City still unbeaten in the Premier League - and top of the table prior to this weekend's fixtures - the situation is far from dire for Mancini.

But the team have still largely lacked the dynamism they display ed early last season and they will face a stern test of their credentials at Chelsea this weekend, whatever the recent turmoil at Stamford Bridge.

Mancini said: "I think that we had a problem, we had players injured and we are on the top. I think we can improve more.

"Also, I think this championship will be stronger than last year because I think also Chelsea will fight for the title.

"There are three (teams) in this moment."

City captain Vincent Kompany is doubtful for the match having suffered a knee injury in the Champions League draw with Real Madrid on Wednesday.

The Belgian battled through to the end of the match but left the stadium on crutches and was to undergo a late fitness test.

As the heart of City's defence, his absence would be a major blow for Mancini, who has dismissed concerns over the player's recent form.

Mancini said: "I think Vinny maybe started this season so-so but now, in the last month, he played real ly well. Vinny is an important player for us."

City will face a Chelsea side hoping to restore stability after a tumultuous week which has seen manager Roberto di Matteo sacked and Rafael Benitez - like Mancini, a former Inter Milan boss - installed as his replacement.

Mancini said of Benitez: "I know him but I don't know him very well.

"As a manager I spoke with him many times before he went to Inter.

"He won trophies in Spain, England - and won a Champions League at Liverpool. I think he is a good manager."

Yaya and Ba in gong contention

Yaya Toure: In the running for award

The Confederation of African Football has named Ivorian pair Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure, Cameroon's Alex Song, Senegalese striker Demba Ba and Ghanaian Andre Ayew as the final contenders for the prize having pruned a 10-man longlist.

Only the latter, who plays in Ligue 1 with Marseille, did not play in England last term.

Drogba helped Chelsea to Champions League glory before moving to China with Shanghai Shenhua, while Song traded Arsenal for Barcelona this summer.

Toure and Ba remain in England, with league champions Manchester City and Newcastle respectively.

Toure was last year's winner of the award, with Ayew in third place, and Drogba collected the gong in both 2006 and 2009.

A victor will be named in Ghana on December 20.

Kamis, 22 November 2012

Zabaleta baffled by Euro pain

Pablo Zabaleta: Gutted after Champions League exit

City's 1-1 draw with Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday condemned the Premier League winners to elimination before the knockout stages for a second successive season.

As with last year, City faced a tough group, drawn against the might of Real as well as two other domestic champions in Borussia Dortmund and Ajax.

But with City boasting plenty of world-class talent of their own, Zabaleta is puzzled as to why they have failed to win any of their first five Group D games.

The Argentina international said: "We are obviously a bit disappointed about the result as we needed three points.

"It was our last chance to get close enough to Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, and play the last game with an option to go through to the next stage.

"Now, the chance has gone and it's hard to understand.

"It's the second year in a row that this has happened - it's hard to see, when you see the players that we have.

"The group was very tough. Borussia Dortmund did very well and maybe Real Madrid were the second best team in the group and that's why we didn't qualify for the next round."

City remain bottom of the group with just three points and will now battle it out with Ajax for a consolation spot in the Europa League.

To achieve that they will need to win their final game at Dortmund, who are confirmed as group winners, and hope that Ajax do not beat Real at the Bernabeu.

There is a feeling among some observers that City might now be better served in their quest to retain the Premier League title by being out of Europe altogether.

But Zabaleta feels they must make the most of any opportunity to play on the continental stage.

The 27-year-old said: "We expected more. When you see the squad that we have, you want to try to go through to the next round.

"Now we have a chance to qualify for the Europa League.

"It is always good to play in Europe. Tha t was not our target at the beginning but now we need to go to Germany and beat Borussia Dortmund and wait for the result between Real Madrid and Ajax."

City needed to beat Real to retain any hope of reaching the last 16 but their hopes were almost killed off in the opening half-hour as Real frequently tore through their defence.

Karim Benzema struck after 10 minutes and the visitors had a handful of other gilt-edged chances as City again looked uncomfortable playing in a 3-5-2 formation.

City finally began to gain a foothold in the game after manager Roberto Mancini reverted to flat back four and they equalised with a second-half Sergio Aguero penalty following Alvaro Arbeloa's sending off.

Aguero went close to a second but was denied by a brilliant point-blank save from Iker Casillas and the hosts failed to take several other chances.

Zabaleta, who began the game as a right wing-back but moved to left-back in the reshuffle, said: "We star ted the game really slowly with some defensive problems, and then we changed to 4-4-2 as we felt more comfortable with that system.

"We conceded three or four chances at the beginning of the game and that cost us a goal.

"In the second half we showed a different spirit, created more chances and maybe deserved a second goal - but we didn't get it."

City showed similar spirit to come from 2-0 down to draw their previous game against Ajax, when again they were left to rue defensive lapses.

They must quickly put their disappointment behind them as they travel to title rivals Chelsea in the Premier League this weekend.

City are waiting on an update on the fitness of captain Vincent Kompany, who could be doubtful for the trip to Stamford Bridge with a knee injury.

Kompany was hurt in a challenge with Cristiano Ronaldo 10 minutes from time against Real but battled through to full time.

He underwent lengthy treatment after returning t o the dressing room and was due to have further assessment.

Selasa, 20 November 2012

Mario Balotelli doubtful for Manchester City's game with Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli: Injury doubt

Left-back Gael Clichy is almost certainly out after suffering an ankle injury in the 5-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday.

Midfielder James Milner (hamstring) could return but Jack Rodwell (hamstring) is unlikely to feature despite returning to training and right-back Micah Richards (knee) and centre-back Kolo Toure (ineligible) are out.

Senin, 19 November 2012

Aguero targeting Real scalp

Sergio Aguero: Set his sights on Real Madrid

The Argentina international spent five years with Atletico, scoring 74 goals in 175 games, and although some of those strikes came against the Galacticos it was never enough to secure victory.

Aguero hopes that drought will end in order to keep Manchester City's slim Champions League chances alive.

"It's always special to play against a club like Real Madrid," he said.

"Personally, my connection with Atletico Madrid gives it an additional kick - but there's no difference in how much I want to win this match.

"Never defeating Real when I was with Atletico was a real regret for me - Atletico haven't succeeded in beating them for many years - but I did get to score against them even if we never managed a win.

"Wednesday night will hopefully break that run for me."

Bottom of Group D with two points, five behind their opponents, City have to beat Real to avoid a second successive group stage elimination.

Even if they do pre vail at the Etihad Stadium Roberto Mancini's side would then have to beat Borussia Dortmund and hope other results go their way.

"We should never give up. Where there's a will, there's a way, right?" Aguero told mcfc.co.uk.

"Of course, it's harder now because we're not just relying on ourselves but also on the other teams' results.

"I think it's even more significant now than if we had been in a better position in the table.

"It may sound strange but I firmly believe that. We must win this game.

"Whatever the final scoreline is - a good one, I hope - we'll show on the field that we don't give up, like we did in the game against Ajax and in every game we've played.

"We have a great team, I have no doubt about it and now it is time for us to show just how good we are.

"What we mustn't do is leave the pitch with any regrets and be content knowing that we have given our all.

"This club deserves nothing less and our supporte rs deserve as much, too."

Fellow Argentina striker Carlos Tevez is of a similar mindset, insisting they cannot afford to think their Champions League dreams are over for another year.

"We knew it would be tough," he told Champions - the official UEFA Champions League magazine.

"We only started playing in the competition last year so you need a bit of patience.

"You have to keep on growing and becoming more mature and, as the years pass, you will become stronger.

"We know it will be difficult but you just have to keep on fighting until the end."

After last year's fall-out with Mancini and extended stay in Argentina speculation about Tevez's future is never far from the headlines.

He appears much more settled this season, however, and Champions League football is helping with that.

"The truth is that I am happy when I am playing in games like the one against Madrid even though we couldn't get a good result," added the 200 8 Champions League winner with Manchester United, referring to their 3-2 defeat at the Bernabeu in September.

"I am content, and you can see that on the pitch."

Mancini's team selection will be crucial on Wednesday and the Italian admits one of the key decisions will surround whether to play Yaya Toure in a deeper midfield position or not.

"If Yaya plays the way he did on Saturday (in a 5-0 win over Aston Villa), we can win a lot of games," said Mancini.

"He brought balance to the team, he didn't lose the ball, and was strong.

"The whole team played well but Yaya was important in the middle.

"He can make those runs from the holding position, but we can't forget that we have four offensive players in front and you need balance - without that balance it makes it difficult for the defenders."

Minggu, 18 November 2012

Premier League: Manchester City make light work of hapless Aston Villa

David Silva: Set Manchester City on their way to a comprehensive success

David Silva opened the scoring for the Premier League champions, before two goals apiece from Argentine strike duo Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez put a rather lop-sided slant on the final scoreline.

A comprehensive victory was enough to take City back to the top of the table, for a few hours at least, while out-of-sorts Villa tumbled into the drop zone as a result of Reading's victory over Everton.

Roberto Mancini's men dominated possession throughout, but struggled to break a stubborn Villa defence down during a scrappy first half and left themselves open to counter.

Vincent Kompany almost put through his own net at one stage, but Joe Hart came to his rescue, but City's pressure finally paid off two minutes before half-time when Villa failed to deal with a Samir Nasri corner and, after seeing the ball ricochet around the box, Silva was in the right place to bundle home.

Paul Lambert likely told his troops at the interval that ther e was still all to play for, but within nine minutes of the re-start City had doubled their lead in contentious circumstances.

Aguero calmly stroked home from the spot, but the awarding of a penalty for an apparent handball by Andreas Weimann left Villa incensed - with it their opinion that the forward did not make contact with the ball as it fizzed past him.

Villa's mood went from bad to worse as the afternoon wore on, with seemingly everything going against them right now.

City, though, were now in complete control of the tie and netted twice in the space of as many minutes to wrap up the points.

Tevez rolled home the Blues' second penalty of the game following a handball by Barry Bannan and Aguero made it four on 67 minutes as he led a swift counter and fired past Brad Guzan at his near post via the aid of a deflection.

The final act of a game bossed by City saw Tevez convert a low cross from Nasri, with the goal left gaping in front of him.

It has been suggested at times this season that City have been performing below their best, but such accusations could not be levelled at them on Saturday and they will be hoping to have ignited their title defence in front of their own supporters.

Manchester CityTeam StatisticsAston Villa
11st Half Goals0
10Shots on Target2
11Shots off Target3
5Blocked Shots6
0Yellow Cards1
0Red Cards0
90Passing Success78.6
92.9Tackles Success84.6
66.2Territorial Advantage33.8
622Total Passes295
30Total Crosses13
127Lost Balls123
72.11st Half Poss.27.9
63.52nd Half Poss.36.5

Mancini: We're getting there

Roberto Mancini: Spirit is returning

City may have benefited from one hugely contentious and pivotal refereeing decision, but by full time there was no doubting their superiority as they reached the summit with a 5-0 thrashing of Aston Villa.

After much criticism over performances, reports of disharmony and speculation over various club matters, moving top for the first time this season was highly satisfying for Mancini.

And as he reflected on that feat in the aftermath of the game at the Etihad Stadium, the Italian did not know rivals Manchester United would lose in the evening to ensure they remained there.

Mancini said: "In our mind we found good spirit like last year and with all the problems we've had these two months, for 45 minutes we are on the top and this is very important.

"I think we can improve more. Like I said against Tottenham (last week), I saw the spirit we had last year."

The flair and momentum which carried City to that memorable first title in 44 years last season has certainly not always been evident this term.

But their durability has not been in question and even amid rumours of crisis - fuelled by an admittedly poor showing in the Champions League - they have remained unbeaten in the Premier League.

Their overall unbeaten sequence in the competition now stretches to a club record 18 matches and they have not lost in 36 home league games going back almost two years.

Their latest victory came after assistant referee Adrian Holmes controversially flagged for handball against Andreas Weimann as David Silva swung in a corner early in the second half.

Referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot amid much bemusement and protest but Sergio Aguero coolly slotted the penalty to add to Silva's scrambled opener.

Carlos Tevez added a second penalty and the two Argentinians then doubled their tallies as Villa wilted.

City will now hope to carry some momentum into their midweek glamour clash w ith Real Madrid, even though their Champions League task seems a forlorn one.

After collecting just two points from their first four games, City must beat Real and Borussia Dortmund and hope other results go their way to reach the knockout phase.

Mancini said: "They are two different competitions.

"On Wednesday we play against one of the best teams in the world, with a fantastic history.

"We want to do a good job. I think we have few chances to go through but it is important to do a good job."

Aguero expects City to play like they have nothing to lose.

The 24-year-old, who has now scored four goals in his last three City games, said: "It's a good game. The truth is we have to win so we are going to go out and win however we can.

"We will have to see the other results but in the meantime the important thing is to play how we have been doing and do our best to win."

Another pleasing aspect of the performance for City - wh ose position was further enhanced by defeat for third-placed Chelsea - was their clean sheet.

The defence, formidable last season, has been under fire this term but they have now shut out opponents in four of their last six league games.

Aguero said: "Scoring goals is good but last season we were champions on goal difference, so it's important that we don't concede and try to score a lot.

"The result I think was very good. We needed to win and now we are calm and in good spirits.

"With Chelsea having lost their match, we are very happy."

After surrendering a two-goal lead to lose to Manchester United last week, defeat was another painful one for Villa.

It left Paul Lambert's young side in the bottom three with just nine points from 12 games and still searching for momentum.

But Villa did have their moments before Silva forced in the opener after 43 minutes and Lambert could not escape the thought the outcome might have been di fferent without the first dubious penalty.

Lambert said: "I have been saying for the last few weeks, the lads are giving it everything they have got.

"In the first half Joe Hart made a world-class save to keep it nothing each.

"We had some chances and coming here is a difficult place.

"City are a top side with some really fantastic players, so take nothing away from them, but I am just disappointed the officials were not strong.

"The lads will be fine, they always have been. They will bounce back strongly."

Roberto Mancini sees Manchester City make progress against Aston Villa

The defending Premier League champions are now unbeaten in 17 games stretching back to last season and sit top of the table.

City have lacked some of their swagger from their title-winning previous campaign but they are showing signs of getting back to their best.

"In the first half we scored only one goal but we had other chances to score," Mancini told Sky Sports.

"I think that we had a good attitude today."

Two goals apiece from Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez, including both Argentines scoring a penalty, after David Silva's opener dumped Villa into the relegation zone.

Villa were annoyed at the decision of the match officials to award Aguero's spot-kick for an apparent handball by Andreas Weimann.

But Mancini said: "From the bench it is difficult to say, because we did not see anything."

Kamis, 15 November 2012

Premier League: Mario Balotelli is ready to take back the Manchester City shirt

Mario Balotelli: Ready to take back the Manchester City shirt, says Gregucci

Balotelli was named as a substitute for City's UEFA Champions League draw in Ajax last Tuesday and did not even make the bench for last weekend's Premier League victory over Tottenham.

Speculation has surfaced the 22-year-old striker could head for the exit in January should Roberto Mancini continue to favour Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko, who has proven influential as a substitute this season.

However, Balotelli impressed for Italy in their friendly against France on Wednesday despite the Azzurri suffering a 2-1 defeat, and Gregucci says he is ready to fight for a spot at City.

He told Sky Sport Italy: "Mario gave a great contribution (for Italy) and I saw in him the right attitude and behaviour.

"Mancini has chosen to give him a signal, and it is his right to make choices.

"Perhaps during the last week something was missing, but Mario is ready to take back the Manchester City shirt."


Balot elli has been linked with a return to Serie A with former club Inter Milan, as well as their city rivals AC Milan.

Gregucci added of his future: "Will he stay? It's not up to me to say. I just know that he is definitely redeemable. He has 22 years of talent and quality.

"He is a resource of our football club. He will give his contribution to the national team and to City."

Suarez planning Liverpool stay

Luis Suarez: Happy to stay at Liverpool despite links with Manchester City

The 25-year-old has been linked with a big-money move to Manchester City with reports suggesting the Premier League champions were lining up a move for the Uruguayan in January.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers played down the rumours earlier on Thursday insisting his star striker was not for sale.

Suarez, who signed a new deal at Anfield in the summer, insists he has no plans to quit the club and that he is enjoying working under Rodgers.

"I have a very long contract here and it's a dream come true to be playing at a club like Liverpool because, as I've said, as a boy I dreamt of playing for a team like this," Suarez told the club's official website

"Now I'm here, it's all about enjoying myself and trying to be here for as many years as I can, because I'm at a club where I'm very happy, my family is happy, I've got fantastic team-mates and a manager from whom I'm learning so much.

"As a player, it's vital to have the backing of your manager and so I think that the confidence Brendan is showing in myself and the team as a whole is very important and it's down to us to repay that trust out there on the pitch."

Suarez added: "Let's hope we can keep improving. I'm working well and I'm very happy at a club where I've always wanted to be. At a club to whom I'm very grateful for the trust everyone is showing in me - a club with amazing supporters and team-mates who are all great people.

"The other important thing is that the squad is very united. In spite of not getting the results we would have liked, we have a great spirit of togetherness and let's hope we can continue to pick up points."

James Milner could be back in Manchester City line-up for clash with Aston Villa

Roberto Mancini could have James Milner back for the clash with Aston Villa

The 26-year-old has been absent for City's last four games due to a one-match suspension for his red card against West Brom followed by a hamstring injury.

The England international pulled up during the warm-up before the West Ham game which would have been his first game back after his ban.

Milner told the club's official website: "I've been progressing well and I'm back training so I'm hoping to be available for Villa.

"My hamstring was a little tight before the game at West Ham and hadn't felt quite right in the days leading up to the game.

"I'd had some treatment because it happens from time to time - then you play and it's OK, but I went to do a sprint in the warm-up, it didn't feel right and I made the decision not to carry on which I think has been proved correct.

"If I'd have played, it would have probably gone during the game and I could have been out for a lot longer. As it was, it was just ten days or so before I started light training again and now everything feels fine."

Rabu, 14 November 2012

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone says Falcao deserves 'only good things'

Falcao: Praised by Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone

The prolific frontman is thought to be a target of both Chelsea and Manchester City, while Atletico's Primera Liga and city rivals Real Madrid have also been heavily linked.

Simeone revealed that he talked to the highly-rated Colombian striker before the Europa League final last season, before the speculation over his future even begun.

"Everything that happens with Falcao I am fine with because I know the boy," Simeone told reporters.

"We spoke about everything before the final against Athletic. We talked about the fact that he would have offers to go to one of the world's biggest clubs.

"That is the norm with the great players.

"It will all depend on any agreements with other clubs. I know Falcao and believe he deserves only good things to happen to him."

Patrice Evra says Manchester United will always be superior to Manchester City

Patrice Evra: United currently sit two points clear of City at the top of the Pr

The French full-back was a member of the United squad who lost the race for the top-flight trophy on a phenomenally dramatic final day of last season.

But Sir Alex Ferguson's men licked their wounds over the summer, improved their squad and currently sit at the top of the table and two points clear of City.

And Evra, who is preparing for international duty against Italy on Wednesday night, when he could face City's Mario Balotelli, thinks United's derby rivals will always be inferior.

With United due to visit City on 9th December, the defender told French media: "I know Mario very well.

"But I don't know if we could talk about rivalry between both Manchester clubs, because we have always been superior to Manchester City.

"And even if they won the national title last season, that won't change anything."

Meanwhile, Evra is determined to finish his France career on a high as he looks ahead to the 2014 World Cup.

The 31-ye ar-old was one of the players banned by the French Football Federation in the wake of their 2010 World Cup shame.

And Evra was then left as an unused substitute by former France boss Laurent Blanc as they were knocked out of Euro 2012 by Spain.

He said: "Above all, I want to win a trophy with my country. Terminating my career without a trophy with the national team would be a failure to me."

Selasa, 13 November 2012

Italy coach believes Man City dropped Mario Balotelli for footballing reasons

Mario Balotelli: Left out of Manchester City squad for clash with Spurs

Reports have suggested that Mancini is willing to sell the 22-year-old striker after growing tired of his lifestyle.

Balotelli was surprisingly left out of the City squad for Sunday's win over Spurs amid reports of a breach of club discipline - fuelling fresh speculation over his long-term future at the Etihad.

However, Prandelli has defended Balotelli, ahead of Italy's midweek friendly against France, by rejecting claims that his off-field behaviour is harming his City career.

"Mario told me that it was a technical choice of the coach," he said.

"He is not happy with what he is doing and he must try with matches and training to change Mancini's mind.

"He will have an opportunity with his national team and he must get ready.

"It is normal that the newspapers talk about him because he is a personality. But he should think about playing football."

Meanwhile, the relationship between Balotelli and Mancini is simil ar to a "husband and wife's", says the player's agent.

"They argue, but they love and respect each other so much," Mino Raiola told Radio CRC.

"Everyone has their own ideas, but Mario will remain at Manchester City. He won't go to AC Milan.

"He will be a City player for at least another two and a half years because Mario is not thinking about other clubs."

Senin, 12 November 2012

Gael Clichy has been forced to withdraw from the latest France squad

Gael Clichy: Will miss Italy clash as he nurses a back complaint

The defender picked up a knock during City's 2-1 Premier League victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

Having had the problem assessed, it has been decided that he will play no part in France's latest fixture.

The French Football Federation confirmed on Monday that Clichy will return to his club to receive treatment on a lower back complaint.

National coach Dider Deschamps will now be without the services of an experienced performer against Italy.

He has, however, opted against drafting in an established replacement and Les Bleus have handed a call-up to uncapped Bordeaux left-back Benoit Tremoulinas.

The 26-year-old has figured in national squads before, but is yet to make his first appearance for his country.

Mancini: Keep calm and carry on

Roberto Mancini: Wants players to stay calm and work hard

City emerged from yet another tumultuous week with a precious three points from their Premier League encounter with Tottenham.

It allowed the champions to nudge themselves up to second spot in the table, still unbeaten, and just two points adrift of Manchester United.

Not a bad situation for a club supposedly on the ropes after failing to overcome Ajax at home five days earlier, a result which has left their Champions League hopes hanging by the thinnest of threads.

Mancini's behaviour around the Ajax tie was odd to say the least.

By the weekend, he returned to his normal affable character. And he needs his players to stay the same.

"There are some moments during any season when you don't play well, you might concede goals you didn't concede last year or maybe you are missing three or four important players," said Mancini.

"At these moments it is important to stay calm and work hard. In football things can change quickly."

The good news for Mancini is that his words are being echoed from inside the dressing room.

Indeed, if the example of Manchester United is anything to go by, all the negativity surrounding them can end up being a pretty significant positive.

"We have come a long way in the last four years and the expectations have changed," said Pablo Zabaleta.

"It's normal that when you win the title, people will knock you at the first opportunity.

"You are up there to be shot at and we take it all on the chin.

"It happens at other clubs. It's just the way things are."

Of course, the significant difference between United and City is the sheer control exerted on their respective clubs by Sir Alex Ferguson and Mancini.

Whilst dissent at United is rare, at City trouble of some description always seems to be brewing.

Yesterday, for instance, Ferguson could have got away with leaving out a star player by putting it down to rotation. At City, Mario Balotelli's appearance in the stand just triggered more rumours of a fall-out with Mancini, amid further speculation about a transfer window move back to Italy.

"Mario was a technical choice," said Mancini. "There was no fall-out, just rest and recovery."

Proof Mancini is more in control than circumstances make it appear came with confirmation a tactical rejig, to the three-man defensive system that was condemned by Micah Richards in Amsterdam last month, was directly responsible for yesterday's comeback.

"We went three at the back. Unfortunately we won," said Mancini, with more than a hint of irony.

That Edin Dzeko should score the late winner, following Sergio Aguero's equaliser, merely opened up another avenue of attack given the Bosnian has already expressed his displeasure at spending so much time on the bench.

Dzeko has now scored seven goals this season, two more than Carlos Tevez and three ahead of Sergio Aguero, who ba gged the leveller to Steven Caulker's early header.

Yet six of these have come from the bench, and four in the final 10 minutes to secure hugely important victories.

Still though, there can be no guarantee of a place in Mancini's starting line-up for City's home game against Aston Villa on Saturday.

"I hope Edin can also score when he plays from the start," said Mancini.

"If he scores when he plays from the start he would get two or three goals because in 20 minutes he always gets a goal or two."

Minggu, 11 November 2012

Premier League: Manchester City end difficult week on a high beating Tottenham

Edin Dzeko strikes late for City

Having stumbled one again in the Champions League in midweek against Ajax, the out-of-sorts reigning champions fell behind to Steven Caulker's first-half header.

But Sergio Aguero hauled them level before substitute Edin Dzeko hooked in the winner two minutes from time.

There was a fright for City's defence early when Aaron Lennon and Emmanuel Adebayor threatened and worse was soon to follow.

Caulker (20) was allowed space to stoop and head Tom Huddlestone's free-kick past the scrambling Joe Hart from six yards, with an uncharacteristic fumble from the City keeper seeing Spurs in front.

City appealed in vain for a penalty for a handball by Willam Gallas before Huddlestone's low thump whistled past the post.

Aleksandar Kolarov's dink floated wide of the far post while Huddlestone's unpunished penalty box body check on Pablo Zabaleta further incensed the home support.

Neither Carlos Tevez nor Zabaleta could seriously te st Brad Friedel when given clear sights of goal as City struggled for rhythm.

There was further anguish as Aguero fell over his own feet having broken clear but his aim was true (65) as he coolly slotted past Friedel after getting the break of the ball.

Bale then blazed over and the Welshman took advantage of more defence hestitancy to blast one straight at Hart from 16 yards.

But it was the Tottenham goal that came under siege in the final quarter; Dzeko heading past the upright and Silva firing wide after a jinking run.

Aguero was again denied by Friedel as the tension mounted but the Tottenham keeper was helpless as Dzeko latched onto Silva's clever pass to save the day.

Manchester CityTeam StatisticsTottenham Hotspur
01st Half Goals1
5Shots on Target2
8Shots off Target4
1Blocked Shots1
1Yellow Cards2
0Red Cards0
81.7Passing Success66.4
17T ackles19
70.6Tackles Success63.2
52Territorial Advantage48
482Total Passes277
24Total Crosses13
163Lost Balls161
66.71st Half Poss.33.3
60.42nd Half Poss.39.6

Edin Dzeko delighted to help Manchester City to battling victory over Tottenham

Edin Dzeko: Grabbed a late winner for Manchester City as they edged out Tottenha

The Bosnia international is City's top scorer this season, with a match-winning effort in a 2-1 victory over Spurs taking him on to six Premier League goals for the season.

Much of his best work has come from off the bench, with Roberto Mancini preferring to use the burly frontman as an impact player against tiring defences.

Dzeko acknowledges that he is building something of a reputation, but is delighted to have played another leading role for City as they stretched their unbeaten start to the campaign to 11 games.

"It's not the first time, but it's a great feeling," he told Sky Sports.

"It shows our character that we are strong even when we are losing. I hope next time we will be winning 1-0 and win the game because this is much harder to play.

"Again from a free-kick we conceded a goal, stupid as against Arsenal, and we have to improve there that is for sure.

"After the goal I think we played better, were the better team over 90 minutes, and at the end we deserved it."

Asked if his efforts will have sent a message to Mancini and earned him a shot at a starting berth in the near future, Dzeko added: "Goals are my message, that is the only thing."

Roberto Mancini pleased with Manchester City's showing in win over Tottenham

Roberto Mancini: Saw Manchester City grind out a 2-1 victory over Tottenham

City have toiled at home and abroad over recent weeks, with defensive errors proving costly.

The reigning Premier League champions were once again undone by a set-piece against Spurs, as Steven Caulker opened the scoring, but hit back through Sergio Aguero and substitute Edin Dzeko to claim a morale-boosting success.

Mancini concedes that his side were far from faultless on Sunday, while Gael Clichy picked up a knock that will require attention, but the Italian feels things are heading in the right direction.

He told Sky Sports: "Tottenham are a strong team that are very dangerous away.

"The two problems are that we conceded again from a set-piece and the other problems is Clichy with his back. Apart from that we were fantastic.

"We need to have more concentration on set-pieces. But the players were fantastic and I can see that they showed the same spirit we had last year.

"I also want to say thank you to all of our supporter s because they have been very close to us for the past two weeks and I want to say thank you."

Neville criticised by Tevez

Tevez (r): Former United team-mate of Neville's

Former Manchester United defender Neville is a member of Roy Hodgson's coaching staff, but is also a television pundit and is currently planning to open a hotel near Old Trafford.

Tevez told The Sun Sunday: "Can you imagine Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, Brazil or Argentina employing a manager's right-hand man whose day job is a television pundit? I can't ever see it happening.

"This week, I saw that Gary is part of a venture to build a new hotel in Manchester. How does that benefit England and Roy Hodgson?"

Tevez was also unimpressed by Neville's criticism of David Luiz last season when he said the Chelsea defender looked he was being "controlled by a 10-year-old in the crowd on a PlayStation".

"He's happy to make jokes about players referring them to a PlayStation game but I'm not sure many World Cups have been won on PlayStation - so I think Gary needs to stop playing games and concentrate on his coaching," he said.

"I know Sky is a high-profile and lucrative job and must pay well but he has to decide whether his first loyalty is to them or the FA.

"He should be out there watching games in the Premier League or the Championship, reporting back on current players and those who might play a part in the World Cup and beyond.

"He should also be turning up at clubs, watching their sessions, seeing how top-class coaches work and how England players respond to them."

On being a pundit and a coach for England, Tevez concluded: "In my opinion, there is too much of a conflict of interest to do both."

Jumat, 09 November 2012

Platt comes to Mancini's defence

Mancini went onto the pitch to confront referee Peter Rasmussen after a controversial end to City's frustrating and damaging 2-2 Champions League draw with Ajax at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.

City striker Sergio Aguero had a goal ruled out for offside in the 88th minute and Mario Balotelli was denied an injury-time penalty as Rasmussen blew the final whistle.

Mancini also clashed with the cameraman who filmed him at close proximity as he walked across the pitch but later said he had only been telling him to stop recording.

First-team coach Platt said: "Why wouldn't the manager of a football club be frustrated? Why wouldn't we all be frustrated?

"Players are frustrated, supporters are frustrated, staff are frustrated.

"Robbie has gone onto the pitch and spoken to the referee. As he comes back, he turns around and has a camera in front of his face for 30 yards.

"He turns around and says, in English, that basically it is enough now.

"People then want to start talking about what has happened and almost exaggerating the incident."

Tottenham midfielder Sandro could face Manchester City, who wait on trio

Sandro: May face Manchester City

Defenders Lescott (back) and Maicon (foot) - the Brazilian was an unused substitute in midweek - and playmaker Silva (hamstring) are all back in training after spells on the sidelines.

Right-back Micah Richards (knee) and midfielders James Milner and Jack Rodwell (both hamstring) remain on the injury list.

Tottenham midfielder Sandro has a chance of recovering from a calf injury for the game at the Etihad Stadium, manager Andre Villas-Boas said.

Villas-Boas must decide whether to stick with Hugo Lloris or recall Brad Friedel in goal and Emmanuel Adebayor could make his first league start of the season at his former club.

Mousa Dembele (hip), Scott Parker (Achilles), Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Younes Kaboul (both knee) are unavailable.

Kamis, 08 November 2012

Ajax's Ryan Babel is pleased with the 'statement' Ajax made at Manchester City

Ryan Babel: Performances against Premier League champions have made a statement

The Amsterdam club have revived their Champions League campaign, after losing their opening two Group D matches, by taking four points from back-to-back games against City.

Ajax, boasting a core of homegrown players, won 3-1 in the Dutch capital a fortnight ago, and then claimed a credable 2-2 draw against the expensively-assembled Premier League winners at the Etihad Stadium.

They still face a tough task to qualify from a group that also includes Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, but they are firmly in contention ahead of remaining games against the Spanish and German sides.

Former Liverpool winger Babel said: "It was a statement to the other teams.

"We have to analyse what the gameplan will be for the next two games but I think these two games will give us confidence.

"We have to take it step by step but I think we made a little statement."

Ajax led 2-0 at Eastlands after two goals from Siem de Jong inside the opening 17 m inutes.

Yaya Toure pulled one back soon after and City levelled 16 minutes from time through Sergio Aguero.

De Jong tested City goalkeeper Joe Hart twice in the second half but Ajax were fortunate to come through a frantic finish.

Aguero had a second goal disallowed for a marginal offside call on Aleksandar Kolarov after 88 minutes, and Mario Balotelli had an injury-time penalty appeal declined.

Babel said: "I think it was a tough match.

"It was a different game from the game against City at home. They pushed a lot from the start.

"Fortunately we scored the two early goals but we still had to keep the focus.

"You know City are going to come more attacking and we almost lost it with the offside goal at the end.

"Maybe we had a bit of luck. It was marginal - sometimes they can be good for them but in this case it was good for us.

"It was a positive result."

Ajax are third in the group and even finishing in t hat position - and so earning a place in the Europa League - would be a positive outcome for the side initially ranked as the outsiders of the quartet.

Holland international Babel said: "I think our goal is to stay in Europe, either the Champions League or the Europa League.

"We have to analyse the next game and after that we will decide what our chances are for Europe."

Babel, 25, is hoping to revive his career back with his first club after a disappointing three-and-a-half years at Anfield and another unsuccessful stint at Hoffenheim.

Despite his past troubles, he was pleased to be back in England.

"It is always great to be back," said Babel, who cost Liverpool 11.5million in 2007.

"English fans and the English atmospheres are special. I have missed it."

Zabaleta takes the positives

Pablo Zabaleta: Looking on the bright side

City look to be heading out of the Champions League at the group stage for the second successive season after a damaging 2-2 draw with the Dutch champions at the Etihad Stadium.

But after falling 2-0 down inside the first 17 minutes, Zabaleta feels encouragement can be taken from the way City hit back to almost snatch a much-needed Group D win.

The Argentina international said: "One of the positive points was that the team showed a very good spirit. It is not easy.

"At the start of the game we conceded two goals and the team did well. We showed spirit, tried to get back."

The match ended in controversy after Sergio Aguero had a late winner disallowed and Mario Balotelli was denied a penalty in injury time.

In chaotic scenes after the final whistle, Balotelli protested to referee Peter Rasmussen and manager Roberto Mancini came onto the pitch to remonstrate with the official.

It was feared Mancini might incur a touchline ban b ut European governing body UEFA confirmed no action would be taken after neither Rasmussen nor the match delegate reported the incident.

The result has left City bottom of their group and needing to beat Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund and hope other scores go in their favour to reach the knockout stages.

Zabaleta said: "It was really important for us to get three points and we went to the referee to see why.

"Everybody was angry. Roberto asked the referee why he didn't give the penalty or why there was a flag after the goal.

"I think when the manager can see you drop two points in a crucial game in the Champions League - he is very passionate.

"We were a bit frustrated and disappointed by the referee's decision but at the end you can do nothing. Now we need to win the next game."

City's latest European disappointment came after criticism for a lacklustre display in a goalless draw with West Ham last weekend.

Despite that, C ity remain unbeaten in the Barclays Premier League title defence ahead of a visit from Tottenham on Sunday.

Rabu, 07 November 2012

Pep Guardiola's agent has refused to rule out a move to AC Milan

Pep Guardiola: Brother was at AC Milan on Tuesday

AC Milan moved quickly to issue a statement denying any contact between senior management and Guardiola's brother, Pere, who was spotted in the San Siro crowd for Milan's Champions League match against Malaga.

But Jose Maria Orobitg told radio station TMW on Wednesday: "Guardiola isn't going to Milan? Who told you that? I am Guardiola's manager, not his brother Pere.

"Anything is possible next year. I speak to (Milan vice-president Adriano) Galliani all the time, and when I speak to him he is very friendly. We have a good relationship. Who knows what will happen in the future?"

Guardiola is currently enjoying a sabbatical year in New York after guiding Barcelona to three Primera Division titles and two Champions League trophies in just four years.

"Milan is an option, as are Manchester City and Chelsea," Orobitg added. "Pep is listening to offers and evaluating them. But Guardiola will not coach this year. We'll talk about it in June."

Speculation has arisen concerning the managerial post at the San Siro given Massimiliano Allegri's poor start to the season, with the Rossoneri only able to hold Malaga to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday.

Orobitg added: "Why was his brother in Milan? Because he represents a lot of Malaga players, why is it strange that he would go and watch one of their games?

"The press talked about it like it was a special event. He just went to watch a game of football. He is also Luis Suarez's agent, but none of the papers talked about that."

A statement issued on Milan's website on Tuesday read: "AC Milan denies the occurrence of a presumed meeting between vice-president Adriano Galliani with family or agents of Mr Guardiola, following news stories that have emerged from several outlets."

Minggu, 04 November 2012

Christian Eriksen happy to be at Ajax after Manchester City offer

Christian Eriksen: Happy he rejected an offer from Manchester City

The Denmark international was the subject of an offer from City in 2011, but felt it was too early in his career to be heading to the Etihad Stadium.

Liverpool and Manchester United have also been linked with the midfielder, who impressed against City during Ajax's 3-1 UEFA Champions League win last month.

He will again be a key player when the Dutch giants meet City in the return clash on Tuesday night and the 20-year-old is happy to still be part of Ajax's squad.

"I think many other players would have said 'yes' to City's offer but I had my own reasons for turning them down," said Eriksen in the Sunday Mirror.

"I remember my agent calling me to tell me that they had come in for me but I told him straight away that I did not see any point in moving to Manchester City and I still don't.

"At the end of my career we will see if I took the right decision. But I feel much more at home at a club like Ajax. I really don't want to swap this club for another yet.

"Age-wise I'm still a young boy. But I have played in both the World Cup and the Euros for Denmark.

"If you wanted a clothes size to judge my status, I would say that I am between medium and large. So I still have some growing time to get to XL!"

Sabtu, 03 November 2012

Prem Snapshot: Hammers stand firm

Sam Allardyce: Saw his side draw with the champions

West Ham defended resolutely to earn a valuable draw against champions Manchester City, who slipped two points behind new leaders Manchester United.

Roberto Mancini's side squandered several chances as a hard-working and well-organised West Ham side held firm.

And it could have been much worse for the champions, with Kevin Nolan's legitimate early goal disallowed for offside, while Yossi Benayoun hit the crossbar.


Sam Allardyce made just one change to his West Ham team, with Joey O'Brien drafted into defence in place of James Tomkins.

City boss Mancini made three changes for the clash, bringing in strikers Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko up front, while also handing centre-half Kolo Toure his first league start since August. Mancini also recalled James Milner but the England international was injured in the warm-up so Gareth Barry retained his place in the team.


For West Ham, Allar dyce employed a 4-4-2, with Nolan playing ahead of England striker Andy Carroll at times. This almost paid off, with Nolan having a goal disallowed early on for offside, while Benayoun hit the crossbar. The Hammers then held firm against increasing City dominance through hard work and organisation and continued to look dangerous on the break.

City unleashed Balotelli, Carlos Tevez and Dzeko in the same starting line-up for the first time in a bold 4-3-3 formation. But if the City boss hoped this would unpick the Hammers' defence, he was proved wrong as City created few clear-cut chances despite the lion's share of possession.


Allardyce used his full quota of substitutions towards the end of the game, bringing on Gary O'Neil for the hard-working Mohamed Diame in the 71st minute, Carlton Cole for Carroll upfront, with the big frontman holding the ball up well to take some of the pressure off the hard-worked defence, while Jordan Spence worked hard when he came on for injured defender James Collins late on to help the Hammers hold on for a valuable point.

Mancini also used three substitutes, but despite the deadlock, waited until the 69th minute to replace Balotelli with Sergio Aguero. The Argentinian showed good touches but he failed to provide the spark the City boss was looking for.

Late on, Mancini replaced the lively Tevez with Javi Garcia, who had little impact, while Scott Sinclair had no time to influence proceedings when he came on at the death for Samir Nasri.


Howard Webb let the game flow well, and there could be no complaints about the three yellow cards he handed out, all for late challenges. But the officials got three decisions wrong, including the early goal from Nolan which would have changed the course of the game.

At the other end, Dzeko headed a rebound from close range wide but was flagged offside when he wasn't. And later on, the offic ials missed Barry handling the ball when collecting it in the box but the Hammers were let off when he then shot wide.


Tevez was the most potent threat for City against his former club, with the Argentinian proving a real livewire as the champions tried to break through the stubborn Hammers defence.

Tevez showed great touch and vision when linking up with his team-mates, although his crossing from dead-ball situations sometimes left something to be desired.

His place among the Hammers' hearts was shown with the warm applause he received from the Upton Park faithful throughout the game and when he was substituted late on.

James Collins put in a great performance in the heart of the West Ham defence, going that extra mile to keep City out, but the whole of the Hammers' backline deserve praise for the way they held firm in the face of increasing pressure.

Despite hovering around the Hammers' box, City rarely found a way through, with high crosses particularly well cleared. Collins also got a standing ovation as he left the field soon after Tevez.


Allardyce was delighted with the resolve his side showed to bounce back from their defeat at Wigan last time.

It earned the Hammers another valuable point in their bid to stay in the top flight this season - with the hosts sitting in eighth in the table on a respectable 15 points from their opening ten games. The Hammers face Newcastle, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal before the turn of the year and Allardyce's side can head into what could prove a testing period with renewed vigour.

For City, Mancini will see this goalless draw - his side's first since Boxing Day - as a one-off blip. The champions fell two points behind Manchester United, but there is still a long way to go in the title race with, like last year, plenty of twists and turns on the way.

Mancini must raise his troops fo r the must-win game against Ajax on Tuesday as City look to give themselves some hope of progressing into the knock-out phases of the UEFA Champions League.

The clash with the Dutch side is the first of four home games for Mancini's side including the mouth-watering meeting with Real Madrid later this month, with league games against Spurs and Aston Villa also on the agenda. Following this run of four home matches is the massive trip to title rivals Chelsea as the games come thick and fast - seven in November.

Manchester City slip to third as West Ham hold on for goalless draw

Mario Balotelli: Frustrated on the pitch before being hauled off

The champions enjoyed ample possession in east London but their unbeaten start in the Premier League continues to be an underwhelming one and West Ham were denied what seemed a legitimate early goal.

Few more awkward-looking trips before Tuesday's must-win Champions League visit of Ajax could Roberto Mancini have picked out and his side would have gone behind inside five minutes had it not been for a wrongly-raised flag.

Kevin Nolan watched Mark Noble's lofted ball all the way over his right shoulder before lashing a fierce volley past Joe Hart but Sam Allardyce was left raging by the offside decision and he had a point.

Edin Dzeko was dubiously ruled offside at the other end but, in any case, missed his header on the rebound and while the hosts continued to knock the ball about with comfort, City struggled to find their groove.

Mohamed Diame cut inside and blazed goalwards, Yossi Benayoun watched a sidefoot volley hit the bar and Andy Carroll dragged a shot wide but the space Yaya Toure was allowed to stride into at the other end served as a warning.

City's best chance came from a Carlos Tevez inswinger but Mario Balotelli - wasteful on several occasions - lifted the ball over the bar from close-range and Mancini blew out his cheeks in frustration.

The Italian boss glowered in his dug-out for several minutes before his players returned but his verbal volley drew a response. City pressed higher up the pitch and a string of corners came, threatening the breakthrough.

Ex-Hammer Tevez looked like being the man, but sliced across the ball with the goal in his sight, and then Gareth Barry charged into the box only to poke past the post, that miss the cue for Sergio Aguero's introduction.

Jussi Jaaskelainen pushed away a fierce shot from the new boy, and James Collins threw his body in front of blue shirts to preserve a deserved deadlock.

Allardyce punched the air while Ma ncini wore a grimace: it was his side's first goalless draw since Boxing Day.

Mancini had sprung a surprise before kick-off by again tinkering with his starting line-up and the decision to start with Balotelli, Tevez and Dzeko in the same XI for the first time failed to deliver the goods.

After a three at the back experiment cost City against Ajax 10 days ago, Mancini's radical tactics are becoming reminiscent of another Italian, famously dubbed 'The Tinkerman', and we all know what happened to Claudio Ranieri.

He had also handed Kolo Toure his first league start since August and recalled James Milner, although he was forced into a last-minute change when the latter hurt his hamstring in the warm-up and was replaced by Barry.

And, on this evidence, City really will need the "miracle" Mancini predicted to rescue their Champions League campaign, starting in Tuesday's revenge mission against Ajax.

< /tr>

West Ham UnitedTeam StatisticsManchester City
01st Half Goals0
0Shots on Target5
5Shots off Target12
1Blocked Shots5
3Yellow Cards0
0Red Cards0
68.2Passing Success87
78.3Tackles Success88.9
45.7Territorial Advantage54.3
283Total Passes570
26Total Crosses25
164Lost Balls160
371st Half Poss.63
29.72nd Half Poss.70.3

Vincent Kompany takes a long term view over Manchester City's European challenge

Vincent Kompany: Provides a long-term perspective

The club will probably have to win all three remaining matches in Group D to qualify for the knock-out stages.

After collecting just one point from their opening three games, they now face home ties against Real Madrid and Ajax, plus an away trip to Dortmund.

The Citizens welcome Ajax to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday desperately needing three points against the Dutch champions yet Kompany is keeping a level head: "Man City will be in the Champions League many more times and will get its chance again.

"But now we have to show that we deserve to be in the Champions League.

"It's a challenge, it was never going to be easy. Any quotes from me will just be positive about what this team can achieve.

"I don't want to participate in the whole dramatising of what is happening here.

"Man City will get there, with or without us. This is just a moment in time where we just have to pull together and get ourselves back on track.

"Bu t we know we are better than what we have shown."

Jumat, 02 November 2012

No Mancini denial over Monaco

Claims emerged this week that the Italian had spoken to wealthy French Ligue 2 outfit Monaco with a view to joining them for this season.

Mancini subsequently guided City to the Premier League title and then signed a five-year contract to remain at the Etihad.

Addressing the reports, Mancini said: "Last year I was very close with seven or eight teams but I prefer to stay here.

"I have worked well here for three years. If someone thinks we didn't do a good job - we won three trophies in two years. I am very happy we worked well.

"Now, the next three or four years will be very important for us."

The wealth of City and accompanying expectations have placed Mancini under a lot of pressure but, despite making reference himself to interest from other clubs, he insisted he was not uncertain about his future.

The former Lazio and Inter Milan boss said: "No, my future, I thought always this (that he would stay).

"I signed a contra ct for the next five years because I believe in this squad, because I can work with serious people like the owner and the chairman.

"To work with these people is fantastic. In football it is difficult to find people who work well with the manager. For me it is a fantastic situation. Now, I think we have time to improve and build a team."

Further questions were raised about Mancini's position last weekend when City appointed Spaniard Txiki Begiristain as their new director of football.

Begiristain previously occupied the same role at Barcelona working with Ferran Soriano, who joined City as chief executive in August.

Mancini welcomed the appointment of Begiristain and insisted he is not concerned that former Barca manager Pep Guardiola, who is currently out of work, will follow.

The City boss said: "I am very happy. He has a lot of experience with a top club like Barca. If we did well in the last two years, I think we can do better in the fu ture.

"If people write that Txiki is here and maybe next year Guardiola will arrive or another manager, this is not my problem. I'm here, I want to continue to work well because I think we are ready to improve and build a stronger team."

In announcing Begiristain's appointment, City confirmed he would take responsibility for supporting Mancini in player recruitment, but the Italian added: "This doesn't change anything."

City travel to West Ham tomorrow looking to preserve their record as the only unbeaten team in the Premier League.

Leaders Chelsea suffered their first loss last weekend in controversial fashion against Manchester United, who, like City, are now only a point behind Roberto Di Matteo's side.

The defending champions have come in for plenty of criticism for their form this season, and Mancini said with a smile: "Last week I thought we were in the last position in the table.

"We'll have a good feeling when we're on top. A t the moment we are behind Chelsea and we need to work more."

City still have a lengthy injury list but things have eased slightly with midfielder Javi Garcia (thigh) and full-back Pablo Zabaleta (hamstring) now available while James Milner returns after suspension.

But midfielders David Silva and Jack Rodwell (both hamstring) and defender Maicon (foot) are still out and have been joined by full-back Micah Richards.

The England international suffered a knee injury against Swansea last weekend that resulted in him being carried off with an oxygen mask over his face, and Richards then said he feared a lay-off of up to four months after going under the knife.

But on Friday Mancini predicted Richards could be back in three weeks, saying: "I think maybe - it is my opinion - three or four weeks. I read three months but I don't know why. One month - maximum."

Kamis, 01 November 2012

Zabaleta fit to face Hammers

Zabaleta: Fit to face Hammers

The Premier League champions feared having no fit specialist right-back after Micah Richards last week joined Zabaleta and Maicon on the injury list.

But Zabaleta, after sitting out three matches with a hamstring injury suffered on international duty, is now ready to return.

The 27-year-old told the club's website: "I feel good, I've been training with the team and I think I should be fine to play on Saturday.

"We have some problems in defence at the moment. We've had three full-backs injured over the past few months, so it is great to be back with the team."

Brazil international Maicon has made just two appearances since his August deadline day move from Inter Milan after suffering a foot injury in the Champions League loss at Real Madrid.

Richards missed the start of the season with an ankle problem sustained representing Great Britain at the Olympics and had been in just his fourth game back when injured last weekend.

The 24-year-old required surgery and faces up to 16 weeks on the sidelines after going down in agony clutching his knee late in the 1-0 win over Swansea at the Etihad Stadium.

Zabaleta said: "It's very disappointing for Micah.

"He's been injured from the start of the season, then he came back and was playing well, but now he has this knee injury.

"This is a time when he has to be extra strong. Obviously it is difficult physically, but also mentally it is very tough when you are injured, you have to stay very strong."

Midfielder Javi Garcia is also hoping to prove his fitness for the weekend after four games out with a thigh injury.