Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Delighted Mancini challenges squad to catch Arsenal

Delight: Roberto Mancini congratulates Patrick Vieira Delight: Roberto Mancini congratulates Patrick Vieira
Roberto Mancini led City to the promised land – then declared: "We can be one of the best in Europe within three years!"
The City manager fulfilled the first half of his remit for the season as the Blues secured fourth place, and can complete the job with victory in the FA Cup final against Stoke on Saturday.
But Mancini will not rest there – he feels Arsenal are catchable, which would mean securing third place and not having to negotiate a tricky Champions League play-off in early August.
Last night’s 1-0 win over Tottenham means the Blues are certain of a place in those play-offs, at least.
But with some big names lying in wait there – including Bayern Munich, Lyon, Villarreal and possibly Benfica, Ajax and this season’s Europa League conquerors Dynamo Kiev – Mancini has his eyes firmly fixed on Arsenal.
City lie two points behind the Gunners with two games to play, and third place would send the Blues straight into the money-spinning group stages of the competition.
"In two or three years we could become one of the top teams in Europe," said Mancini, who said his players will now "eat and sleep" for two days to get ready for the FA Cup final.
Then it will be back down to the league grind, facing Stoke again at home next Tuesday before a trip to Bolton to round off the season.
"It is important we try to get third," said Mancini. "That is why it is so incredible that we lost three points against Everton after playing some fantastic football.
"Now we are two points behind Arsenal, and a lot of it is down to them. If they lose three points, we can do it – it is difficult but we will try."
Mancini has had his own position questioned all season, but he is now just 90 minutes from doing exactly what the club’s owners asked of him at the start of the season.
He said: "I sat down with the owners last summer and they told me they wanted Champions League football – now we have got it.
"We had some problems at the start of the season because players were coming back from the World Cup.
"Next year I think we will be better.
"But we brought in good players, players who deserve to play in the Champions League, not in the Europa League.
"We already have Champions League players, and we deserve to be there because we have been in the top four all season.
"It is a difficult thing to achieve, as there are six or seven teams in the Premier League that are very strong. But we have improved a lot since last year."
As a bonus, Carlos Tevez played 15 minutes and will be involved at Wembley, but Gareth Barry, who has a hamstring problem, should find out today whether he will be fit.

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