Mancini feels fourth is City's despite defeat
Roberto Mancini backed his Manchester City players to hold their nerve in the race to clinch a UEFA Champions League place after their hopes suffered a setback with a 2-1 defeat against Everton.
Mancini's side showed a few signs of nerves as they surrendered a first-half lead at Goodison Park yesterday to give Tottenham a chance to close the gap ahead of their crucial visit to Eastland in midweek.
After Yaya Toure's opener, City looked on course for a potentially decisive win before two goals in seven minutes from Sylvain Distin and Leon Osman left Mancini frustrated. But it wasn't all bad news for Mancini as Tottenham could only manage a 1-1 draw against Blackpool in Saturday's late game, leaving fourth placed City six points clear of Spurs.
Liverpool could put pressure on City with a win over Fulham on Monday but Mancini's team have their destiny in their hands. The City boss is refusing to press the panic button and he believes his FA Cup finalists will finish the job.
"I think it was incredible we lost the game against Everton. We dominated in the first-half and had four or five chances to score," Mancini said. "This is football. If you lose concentration or concede a yard to the other team it's difficult.
"You can never become a strong team unless you close games like that out. But I don't think we have a problem for a fourth spot even though Tottenham are a good team and it will be a good game."
Mancini's remit from the club's Abu Dhabi owners was to qualify for the Champions League. And, with an FA Cup final date at Wembley looming against Stoke on Saturday, he also has a chance to end the club's 35-year wait for a trophy.
But reaching Europe's leading competition has always been the main target and Mancini has urged the players to edge over the finish line. He said: "We all know how important it is to get fourth spot. It's a big week for the players but I know we have cool heads in the dressing room.
"We will regroup and come stronger again. There's no chance we will be defensive, we will play for a win like we do in every game. But we would have liked to have beaten Everton as it would have helped our preparation for the FA Cup final."
Carlos Tevez is still a doubt for the final on 14 May, missed the last three weeks with a hamstring strain. City's captain is back in training but he faces a race against time to be fit.
Mancini claims Tevez has a "50 per cent" chance of being fit to face Stoke, but is in contention to be named on the substitutes' bench against Tottenham after being told he has to come through the Premier League game unscathed first to be in his plans.
The Italian added: "Carlos did two trainings with the team and the next days we will see if it possible. If he can make the bench against Tottenham, perhaps he will play for 20 minutes or from the hour. At the moment his chances of playing in the FA Cup final is 50 per cent."
Everton manager David Moyes was pleased with the way his team hit back. "The team Man City had could probably play in the NBA," he said. "It was like the New York Knicks with the size of them. It was really difficult to match them. It was a case of everybody manning the pumps to get us through the last five or six minutes."