City hope for forward fitness boosts
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Manchester City are hopeful Mario Balotelli and David Silva will be fit for their match away to Premier League title rivals Arsenal on Wednesday. Balotelli was absent from City's 1-0 victory over Blackpool at Eastlands yesterday, a result that saw Roberto Mancini's men stay second on goal difference from leaders Manchester United, with a minor knee problem dating back to surgery at the start of the season.

Spain winger Silva limped off in the win over Blackpool but City coach David Platt is optimistic the former Valencia man will be able to feature at the Emirates Stadium. The game against Arsene Wenger's side could be pivotal in the title race and Mancini will be desperate for the duo to be available.

"Silva got a bang on his knee and just opened his knee up a little bit," Platt said. "The pleasing thing was that he walked off the pitch and hopefully it's not anything too serious. Mario had a knee problem. In the early part of that operation, a bit of blood leaked in there. Every now and again he has a little swelling on it."

Big-spenders City continue to be linked with Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko and while Platt insisted he could not comment on the potential deal, he insisted Mancini already had a squad packed with quality. "We've got a complement of players that makes us competitive until the end of the season. If there's a bit of business we can do to make us even more competitive for the seasons to come, if it's good business they'll do it."

The festive period favours the top clubs when you've got so many games in such a short space of time.
Manchester City's assistant manager David Platt on the benefits of a strong squad

City have responded to their 2-0 defeat to Everton before Christmas with three straight victories. Adam Johnson scored the only goal against Blackpool, with Carlos Tevez subsequently missing from the penalty spot. Platt believes the squad depth that big-spending City enjoy is paying off during the congested holiday fixture schedule.

"The festive period favours the top clubs when you've got so many games in such a short space of time. They've got the ability to change things around without losing quality. The majority of the players were fresh and hadn't played on December 28 and we juggled it around and got nine points."

Holloway confident of continuing rise
Blackpool manager Ian Holloway was adamant his side will continue to prove critics wrong in the New Year. The Seasiders were rated as certainties for relegation at the start of the season, following their promotion through the play-offs. But Holloway was proud of the way his players have looked at home in the Premier League, despite few of them having experience of the top flight.

"If improvement was a piece of string it would go from here to Blackpool and back again for every one of my players," Holloway said. "We've proved a few people wrong and hopefully we'll continue to do that," added Holloway, whose mid-table team now have 25 points.

"We were going to be the worst team ever. Six points after Christmas, it said in one paper. I don't read papers anymore, I just look at the pictures. I don't think we'll get 96 points but I just want as many as we can possibly get, to play like we did against Manchester City."

However, the optimistic Holloway said Blackpool would heed the lessons of Hull's relegation last season when the Tigers dropped out of the Premier League despite a fine start to the campaign.

"We played well (against Manchester City) but didn't get an points and if we do that too many times, you could end up where Hull are now. They had a fantastic start and you could cite that as an example and their manager (Phil Brown) is out of work. I'm very fortunate to have a job, thoroughly enjoying it but trying to keep going and keep going."