Mancini: We can make an impression in Europe
Roberto Mancini claims there is no reason why Manchester City's lack of UEFA Champions League experience should count against them if they manage to qualify.
City are on course for a top-four finish in the Premier League this term which will hand them the chance to take on Europe's elite in 2011/12. It would be the club's first appearance in the Champions League, but Mancini does not see that necessarily being a problem for his star-studded squad.
The Italian is confident a decent run in the UEFA Europa League in the current campaign will set them in good stead, and Mancini also knows from his own time as a player that newcomers can often spring a surprise. "When you play in the Champions League for the first time, maybe you can have problems, but when I played for Sampdoria 20 years ago we got to the final (of the old European Cup) the first time we qualified," he said.
"In football, never say never - anything can happen. It is clear that we are not like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Milan or Inter, teams that have played in the Champions League for a long time. But after this year, if we do well in the Europa League, it will be a good experience and all our players play for their national teams."
Earlier this week midfielder Yaya Toure talked up City's prospects, saying he thought they could be a better team than Barcelona - his old club - in the not-too-distant future. It is something Mancini is also prepared to believe in. "I think we need to work more, but I hope so - why not?" the manager said. "We have big possibilities for the future because we are a strong club."
Ahead of tonight's Europa League last-32 second leg against Aris Salonika at Eastlands, City have been hit by the news that second-choice goalkeeper Shay Given could be out of action for three months with a shoulder injury. However striker Mario Balotelli is fit to take on Aris - with whom City drew 0-0 in last week's first leg in Greece - while Shaun Wright-Phillips is also in contention after a back problem.
Micah Richards has picked up what appears to be a calf injury so will not feature and James Milner (hamstring), Nigel de Jong and Adam Johnson (both ankle) remain in the treatment room.
Meanwhile, Mancini has admitted he cannot be sure how long Carlos Tevez might stay with the club. Reports yesterday quoted Tevez's representative Kia Joorabchian as claiming the Argentina striker - who netted his 50th goal for City in Sunday's 5-0 FA Cup fourth-round replay victory over Notts County - would be happy to rejoin Brazilian side Corinthians, a move he was confident he could seal for his client within the next couple of years.
Tevez's current deal with City runs until the summer of 2014 and asked if he felt keeping hold of the club captain would be a problem, Mancini said: "I don't know this. I'm happy for Carlos because he has scored 50 goals for Manchester City and I hope he can continue to score, but in football it is impossible to know what will happen in the future. I hope Carlos can continue to play here."