March 30, 2013
Mancini: We must keep strong
Team Stat Comparison
|Manchester City||Newcastle United|
|Goals for *||2.2||1.1|
|Goals against *||0.8||1.9|
|Last 5 home||L-W-W-W-W||L-L-L-W-W|
|Last 5 away||W-D-L-W-L||W-D-D-L-L|
|* Goals per match - home matches for home club and away matches for away club|
|Stats: Manchester City | Newcastle United|
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini may have conceded the title to Manchester United but he insists there must be no let-up in intensity.
Having fallen 15 points behind United at the top of the Barclays Premier League with just nine games remaining, City's championship defence appears all but over.
But with the FA Cup still to play for, and the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham not out of the race for second, Mancini is determined to finish the campaign strongly.
The Italian said: "I think when you are a top team and you have good players, you should be very strong when you win or lose. This doesn't change.
"Also, when you can't win a title you can have other situations that you can improve.
"For this reason it is very important to do our best in the next nine games.
"We have the FA Cup and we have to get second position.
"I am sure Chelsea or Tottenham want to take second. We need to do our best for this reason, we want to stay there.
"If we take second position and have a chance to win the FA Cup - I think in the end, with all the problems we have had this year, I think this could be a good season.''
City return to action for the first time since a damaging 2-0 loss at Everton a fortnight ago as Newcastle visit Eastlands this weekend.
Mancini has continued to bemoan his team's shortcomings - most notably a failure to convert goalscoring chances - but trusts and expects his players to respond.
He said: "They have my trust. This is not a problem but I think sometimes we should do more and more.
"In the end we shot 22 times at goal (at Everton) and didn't score.
"This is the problem we have had this year, but we didn't play well.
"We have Chelsea four points behind, Tottenham five points. For this reason it is important we keep going hard, working well.''
Newcastle, who are through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, also need to finish strongly to end any lingering fear of relegation.
Mancini said: "Newcastle changed three or four players in the January market and I think they improved their team.
"Also they also have a good manager and they are doing very well in the Europa League.
"Every time we play against Newcastle it is difficult because they have good players.''
Captain Vincent Kompany, who irritated Mancini by playing for Belgium in midweek, looks set to return after an eight-week absence with a calf injury.
Striker Sergio Aguero is also fit after three games out with knee trouble.
Meanwhile, Shola Ameobi has admitted Newcastle's frustration at their failure to repeat last season's thrilling Barclays Premier League charge.
With eight games of the current campaign remaining, the Magpies travel knowing they still have work to do to ensure they remain in the top flight, something they would never have anticipated as they set out in August.
On May 6 last year, City left St James' Park with a 2-0 victory which both set up a dramatic final day and ended Newcastle's unlikely hopes of Champions League qualification.
This time around, Alan Pardew's men, having had to cope with a dreadful injury list and the demands of a Europa League campaign, head for the Etihad Stadium just six points clear of the drop zone and needing perhaps two more victories to put any lingering fears to bed.
Ameobi said: "We are here because we haven't performed as well as we should have, that's the frustrating thing, knowing that we haven't quite reached our potential this season.
"As the season has worn on, we have improved, but there's no frustration at looking over your shoulder, the frustration is not being where we know we can be and should be.''
Mathieu Debuchy and Massadio Haidara will miss the game, as will Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon and Cheick Tiote with injuries taking their toll once again ahead of a weekend for which Pardew would have wanted to have his strongest possible side available.