Mancini set to drop a number of his players
Roberto Mancini is ready to drop a number of his underperforming frontline players for Manchester City’s English FA Cup fifth round tie against Leeds United on Sunday, conscious that his position as manager will be severely weakened if his team go out of the competition.
Saturday’s 3-1 Premier League defeat at Southampton has left City 12 points behind Manchester United and all but ended their hopes of retaining the title. Mancini knows if the side’s form were to falter further then the club’s hierarchy may consider his position.
When City fell eight points behind United in April last season, Mancini was told he must at least ensure the side put up a robust challenge in the closing six matches. Even if City had not won the championship, Khaldoon al-Mubarak, the chairman, wanted evidence that the players could be rallied by Mancini and play for him. In the event City became champions for the first time in 44 years and the manager signed a new five-year deal.
Although there is no will to remove Mancini, City’s dire Champions League challenge, in which they failed to emerge from their group for a second consecutive year, meant greater emphasis was placed on success in the league. The Italian will be required to ensure his players do not allow the gap to United to become greater and also make a serious challenge for the cup.
Talking about his preparations for the visit of Leeds, Mancini told the Manchester Evening News: “I will change players. I only want players who are ready for the fight in the last 12 games. I am very angry with a lot of my players, and very disappointed at the performance, because it is impossible to play the way we did.”
Peter Reid, a predecessor of the Italian’s at City, claims there is little chance of the club overtaking United in the same fashion as last season, and Mancini himself has admitted the odds are slim.
He told the Manchester Evening News: “We didn’t fight for every ball (at Southampton). We can’t always win by playing well – that is normal. Sometimes we play well and win, but you also need to be able to win because you fight for every ball, and fight against an opponent who also wants to win the game.
“We now have 12 games left, need to do well in the Premier League, and we have the FA Cup – there are games left and we can do better. We need to finish the season the way we did last year.”
Carlos Tevez is expected to return to City this week after a family problem.
Reid added that United had opened up their lead by wining matches even when they were not playing well. He said: “Manchester United have done it and Manchester City haven’t and that’s the bottom line.”