x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Mancini's forward planning

New Manchester City signing Patrick Vieira acknowledges the side's attacking strength could determine where they finish.

When Roberto Mancini won the Serie A title with Lazio as a player in 2000, he was part of a strikeforce that was the envy of rivals. Marcelo Salas, the Chile forward, was ably supported by the classy Croatian Alen Boksic, and three Italian internationals in Fabrizio Ravanelli, Simone Inzaghi and Mancini. It was a five-star frontline that provided Lazio with options and goals.

Observers questioned Manchester City when they bought Carlos Tevez, Roque Santa Cruz and Emmanuel Adebayor in the summer to give them a seemingly bloated attack when you took into account other established internationals such as Craig Bellamy and Robinho. But it has paid dividends and Mancini will benefit, just like he did at Lazio. It is the kind of quality that can pierce durable and defensive-minded sides such as Blackburn and enable City to maintain their push for the top four.

New signing Patrick Vieira, hoping to face Rovers at Eastlands tonight if he can shake off a calf injury, acknowledges their attacking strength could determine where they finish. He knows what it takes to be a title winner, having won three with Arsenal and the Italian equivalent at Inter Milan. Vieira has also played with world-class strikers such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto'o at Inter, but sees similarities at City with the old Arsenal when Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp dismantled defences.

He said: "That was a long time ago, but you can compare them, of course.There's so many big names here [at City]. When you look around Europe, I don't know if a club has five big names like that, five players who can score goals at any time in a game. "It's really exciting. When you go on the pitch you know you will always score goals and so you have a chance to win games." While the City defence has struggled for consistency, the strikers have shared the responsibility.

But with injuries and absences often affecting the others, Tevez has led the line admirably with his eight goals in December. The Argentine started to display his best form under Mark Hughes and has continued under Mancini. According to Tevez, training has become "even more intense" and he added: "I'm really enjoying the way he has us playing. This squad has the ability for the manager to pick a team to suit a certain game or if there a few injuries about."

Mancini is likely to rely on the Tevez and Bellamy partnership as he bids for a fourth successive win since taking charge. The Blackburn manager, Sam Allardyce, would welcome just one of City's famous five in his line-up. In their past eight league games, they have scored just four and been winless. "We've not had enough goals to clinch more victories," said Allardyce. "We need to get some wins quickly. That is going to be difficult at Manchester City, but not impossible."

@Email:akhan@thenational.ae Manchester City v Blackburn, Showsports 1 &2, midnight