x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Every game is like a cup final for Manchester City, says coach Roberto Mancini

Even faced with the seemingly simple task of brushing aside struggling Blackburn Rovers at the Etihad Stadium, the Premier League leaders must be at 100 per cent, according to their manager.

Having Yaya Toure available again is a major boost for Manchester City.
Having Yaya Toure available again is a major boost for Manchester City.

Manchester City will be treating every game of their title run-in like a cup final, Robert Mancini says.

City have a two-point advantage over Manchester United with 13 games remaining and the leaders' manager is braced for a stern test in the season's closing months.

"It is impossible to be complacent," Mancini said. "Every game is like a Champions League final and for this reason we need good concentration."

City resume their title quest following their latest European exploits as struggling Blackburn Rovers visit the Etihad Stadium.

"When you play against a squad playing against relegation, it can be more difficult," Mancini said.

"Blackburn won away against Manchester United and we know they are a good team, they are strong on the counter-attack. They have been playing very well in the last two or three weeks. They are playing to get away from the bottom."

City's title challenge is boosted by the return of the midfielder Yaya Toure from the African Cup of Nations. Toure has not played in the Premier League since the victory over Liverpool on January 3, but returned last week to feature in both legs of the Europa League win over Porto.

During his absence, City went out of both domestic cup competitions and suffered a disappointing league defeat at Everton.

Mancini said: "Yaya is a high-quality player, he used to play for Barcelona and he is used to playing to win every game. I think his mentality is very strong and that can help all the team."

City also have made progress off the field, with Carlos Tevez returning from his self-imposed exile in Argentina and apologising for his conduct in recent months.

Mancini has accepted the apology, opening up the possibility of a first-team return, but the striker needs an estimated two or three weeks to recover match fitness.

"That is probably not what people want to hear," said David Platt, the first-team coach.

"There will be a clamour for a Carlos Tevez story but that is not the important thing. We have to try and temper the clamour. It will take its own course and its own action."

Meanwhile, Blackburn's assistant manager, Eric Black, thinks the team's recent exploits in away matches against big clubs will set them in good stead for the trip to City. Rovers, 17th in the table, above the relegation zone on goal difference, won 3-2 at Manchester United, but were routed 7-1 by Arsenal this month. Black said: "We can take a lot from the performance at the Emirates Stadium.

"It was a very negative one for us at the time, but we have certainly analysed it and the players have taken a lot from it and I'm sure we will be in much better condition going to Manchester City."

Black conducted the pre-match news conference in the place of the manager Steve Kean, who has revealed he has 24-hour protection from a bodyguard. Kean has been subjected to verbal abuse by Rovers fans angry at events both on and off the pitch at Ewood Park.

"I was advised that it would be in my interest to have somebody with me at all times," Kean told The Times. "The chap who protects me is a seventh dan in karate, but he is not big or butch or anything. He knows how to handle himself."

* Press Association