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Mancini Needs Strikers To Fire At Arsenal

London, Apr 07: With his team's English Premier League title challenge starting to falter, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini must make some big decisions regarding his all-star forward line ahead of the crunch match at

India TV News Desk [ Updated: April 07, 2012 9:42 IST ]
mancini needs strikers to fire at arsenal
mancini needs strikers to fire at arsenal

London, Apr 07: With his team's English Premier League title challenge starting to falter, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini must make some big decisions regarding his all-star forward line ahead of the crunch match at Arsenal on Sunday.

In Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko, Mancini has a wealth of options up front but the expensive quartet have entertained and frustrated in equal measure this season.

Aguero is hoping to return from a bizarre ankle injury, Tevez is itching to start after three substitute appearances following his return from lengthy strike action, while the mercurial Balotelli has again made the headlines for the wrong reasons because of more off-field misdemeanors this week.

Whichever strikeforce he selects at Emirates Stadium, Mancini needs them to deliver the goals to keep City in touch with Manchester United at the top of the table.

If United beats Queens Park Rangers in Sunday's early match, City — which has won only one of its last four league games — would be eight points behind in second place by kick-off against Arsenal. Both teams will have six games remaining after this weekend.

Asked if the title race could be all over after Sunday, Mancini said: "If we lose against Arsenal and they beat QPR — yes."

Mancini appears to be losing patience with Balotelli, criticizing the Italy international's work rate in recent games and becoming increasingly infuriated with the 21-year-old striker's off-field antics.

Balotelli escaped unhurt after being involved in a car crash on Thursday, a day after admitting to an affair with a woman who Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney repeatedly slept with in 2010 while his wife was pregnant.

"I told him, 'If you played with me, 10 years ago, I give to you every day one punch in your head!'" Mancini said.

"I speak with him — not every day because I'd need a psychologist — but every two days I speak with him ... Mario, as a player, can be one of the top in Europe. I don't want him to lose his talent."

Aguero looks to have recovered from what Mancini last week called a "stupid" injury, a swelling of the Argentina international's foot after a reaction to a spray applied as treatment.

However, Mancini could yet hand Tevez a start after easing the player back into contention while he recovered his fitness after six months away from the club.

Defender Joleon Lescott (hip) is available while midfielder Samir Nasri could return after missing last week's 3-3 draw with Sunderland because of a family problem and slight injury.

United has won its last seven games in a familiar late-season charge for the title and should make that eight in a row by beating QPR, which is fourth from bottom and has lost 10 of its 15 away matches this campaign.

Portugal winger Nani is back in training after a five-match absence but manager Alex Ferguson is unlikely to recall him at the expense of in-form Ecuador international Antonio Valencia, who scored a stunning goal in United's 2-0 win over Blackburn on Monday.

"What can you say? Antonio has been unbelievable. Absolutely brilliant," Ferguson said. "When you have someone like that coming back to their very best, at this time of year, it is a bonus."

Arsenal is level on points with north London rival Spurs in the race for the third automatic qualifying spot for next season's Champions League. Chelsea, their likely rival for a top-four finish, is three points further back.

Spurs travel to Sunderland on Saturday, when Chelsea will be without injured defenders John Terry (cracked ribs) and Ashley Cole (twisted ankle) for the home match against next-to-last Wigan. Frank Lampard, another of Chelsea's old guard, is a major doubt with a thigh injury.

"I think it will probably prove one of the most difficult games for us," interim Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo said.

"They (Wigan) always seem to find good form towards the end of the season. We have to win, basically. We cannot slip up."

Liverpool is seemingly out of contention for a Champions League place, having dropped to eighth — a place and a point behind Merseyside rival Everton — following a dreadful run of six losses in seven league games.

The position of Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is under scrutiny, despite the club having won the League Cup and progressed to the semifinals of the FA Cup.

"There are a lot of challenges ahead this season. I'd ask the supporters to be patient; we will get it right," said Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard ahead of Saturday's match at home to Aston Villa.

"We're in a league position we're not happy about and we need to look at ourselves and try to move up the league as soon as possible."

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