Mancini confident of top four finish
Roberto Mancini insists he is more confident than ever that Manchester City can finish fourth in the Premier League this season, despite suffering two defeats in his first six league games in charge. Mancini watched his team go down 2-1 at Hull on Saturday to equal the number of league defeats suffered this season by his predecessor Mark Hughes.
But with Tottenham and Aston Villa sharing the points from their weekend clash, City remain three points off Liverpool in fourth with two games in hand on the teams around them going into tomorrow's clash with Bolton and Mancini believes his side have what it takes to break up the established 'big four'. "I'm even more confident," Mancini said.
"Because in the first three or four games we have played very well after we've lost players (to injury). I'm confident when I recover all the players we can win this week at home and then win away (at Stoke on Tuesday).
"We must remember we have two games in hand and if we win them we go fourth. We have a good chance if we win this game. When we recover all our players I don't think it's a problem."
Despite City's vast wealth, Mancini spent modestly in the January transfer window, signing Patrick Vieira on loan from Inter Milan and then adding young winger Adam Johnson from Middlesbrough on deadline day. However, he inherited a large and talented squad following Mark Hughes' spending spree last summer, and that has meant he has received little sympathy while continually referring to the injury problems he has encountered since taking over.
That does not mean Mancini is about to change his tune. "I think this is a good squad but we have had more players injured and this is difficult," he said. "In midfield, we have had only three midfielders, Gareth (Barry), Nigel (de Jong) and Stephen (Ireland), and it's impossible that you can play a season with only three midfielders."
The midfield engine room has been a particular problem for City of late, with Gareth Barry underperforming. Vieira made his debut in the second half of the Hull defeat, but despite impressing, he arrived too late to turn the result around.
The first half was arguably City's worst display under Mancini, and the usually cool Italian admitted he had let his players know about it at half-time. "Yes, I was angry," he said. "This is normal. I was angry after the first half, but I told them if they had a good second half they could recover."
City improved after the break, but could not find an equaliser as Hull lifted themselves out of the drop zone, leaving Mancini in need of three points tomorrow to quickly restore his side's momentum. "I watch the players every day and when they work they work well and they want to arrive at our targets," he said.
"On this I'm very confident. I think that Tottenham, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Arsenal are five teams playing for two places and we have a good chance."