City look to end Spurs Euro elite hopes
Roberto Mancini is not convinced Manchester City's surprise defeat at Everton will have a major effect on their Champions League qualification hopes - but it has cost him a chance to rest players ahead of Saturday's FA Cup final.
With a six-point advantage and just three games remaining, it is hard to see out-of-form Tottenham clawing back the deficit even if they manage to win tomorrow night's Premier League tussle with City at Eastlands.
A home win will end all debate on the matter though, which is why Mancini wants to get the job done. The Italian's worry is that his key men may end up tired, which will hamper preparations for the Blues' first final appearance in 30 years.
"I don't think we have a problem for fourth spot," he said. "We still have three games left and we only need three points. But it was important we beat Everton because we have to prepare well for the final. Now I shall play with all the team against Tottenham because we want to win. That is not perfect for the final."
It looks increasingly likely skipper Carlos Tevez will play some part, which would pave the way for the South American to lead City into battle at Wembley.
The aim for Mancini and his players is to have secured the bare minimum of a place in August's Champions League qualifiers before then, as well as exerting some pressure on third-placed Arsenal, who themselves felt the power Stoke are capable of exerting at the Britannia Stadium yesterday.
There is no obvious reason why City should be troubled. Even though their away form remains patchy, on home soil they are a pretty formidable force, having won 14 out of their last 15 matches at Eastlands in all competitions.
Spurs season's lacklustre ending
In contrast, a season that has contained such enormous highs as beating both Milan clubs in the Champions League and coming from two goals down to beat Arsenal is ending in dreadfully disappointing fashion for Spurs.
Not that Mancini is taking anything for granted. "Tottenham are still a very good team," he said. "They have played Champions League and when you do that the season is very difficult. That is what we are trying to achieve and if we beat Tottenham, it is finished."
Gareth Barry and Adam Johnson are also hoping to be involved tomorrow after missing out at Goodison Park. Saturday's Wembley trip is concentrating minds even more now it has become almost certain Manchester United will be celebrating a record 19th title just as Mancini is leading his team out of the tunnel.
Yet City have made a pretty good job of ignoring events at Old Trafford all season. Having been set two stiff challenges by owner Sheikh Mansour in the summer, the Blues know they could have achieved them both by the end of the week.
"For us now it is about completing the job," said combative midfielder Nigel de Jong. "This is what we all wanted and hoped for at the beginning of the season.
"It was a tough road with all the new signings but they have done very well and now we have the opportunity to get that Champions League place and the first silverware. That was the main reason why everyone came to this club and hopefully, at the end of the road, we can say got there."