Mancini aims to steady City ship without burning Bridge
ROBERTO MANCINI will speak to Wayne Bridge today to assess whether the emotional trauma of facing John Terry in Manchester City's clash with Chelsea tomorrow warrants the defender being omitted from his team at Stamford Bridge.
City manager Mancini, whose number one priority is to steady the ship at Eastlands and stem rumours of unrest following a run of four games without a victory that has seen the club exit the FA Cup and slip into fifth place in the Premier League, is determined to be protective of Bridge following the 29-year-old's announcement yesterday that he no longer wishes to be considered for England duty.
The timing of the left-back's decision to call time on his England career has come as a surprise to senior figures at City, but Bridge's admission that he has chosen to retire from the international arena to avoid the "inevitable distractions" that would arise from his close proximity to Terry has placed a doubt over his ability to overcome similar distractions at Chelsea tomorrow.
Bridge has already expressed a reluctance to shake Terry's hand in the Fair Play handshake prior to the game and Mancini is now deliberating whether the player will be able to focus fully on the game should he selected to face his former club.
The headache posed by the unique situation involving Bridge is an added problem for Mancini in a difficult week that has seen the Italian become embroiled in a row over the length of Carlos Tevez's compassionate leave in Argentina prior to City's FA Cup fifth-round replay defeat at Stoke.
That defeat also saw the dismissal of £25m forward Emmanuel Adebayor for an apparent elbow on Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross. Adebayor, who served a three-game ban for violent conduct earlier this season after he was judged by a disciplinary panel to have stamped on Arsenal's Robin van Persie in an off-the-ball incident, will now be banned for four games for the Stoke red card due to the incident being his second violent conduct indiscretion of the campaign.
The former Arsenal striker will miss the Premier League fixtures against Chelsea, Sunderland, Fulham and Wigan before being available for selection once again for the trip to Burnley on April 3.
City had considered appealing against the red card yesterday, but with the Football Association displaying a readiness in recent weeks to extend suspensions for what they perceive to be frivolous appeals, the club have opted instead to reluctantly accept Adebayor's suspension.
The loss of Adebayor will, at least, be mitigated by the anticipated return of Tevez.
The 26-year-old, who has missed City's last four games after returning to Argentina following the premature birth of his daughter, Katie, is due to return to Manchester today after leaving Buenos Aires last night.
The former Manchester United man has been training with the Argentina national team during his two weeks in South America and is understood to be fully fit and ready to face Chelsea, despite the draining effects of his trans-Atlantic flight back to England.
City's results without their 19-goal top scorer only serve to highlight his importance to Mancini's team.
Chelsea, meanwhile, will be without goalkeeper Petr Cech for up to a month after the Czech international tore a calf muscle during Wednesday's match against Inter Milan.
Cech went for a scan yesterday and the expert assessment was that he had suffered a tear to his right calf in landing after collecting a cross during Chelsea's 2-1 defeat at the San siro.
The 27-year-old was clearly in distress as he was carried off the pitch on a stretcher, having collapsed in a heap.
As well as missing tomorrow's match, Cech will sit out the following weekend's FA Cup quarter-final against Stoke City and the league matches at home to West Ham United and away to Blackburn Rovers.
More worryingly for Chelsea, however, is that he has little or no chance of recovering in time for the return leg against Inter on March 16.
"It's a huge blow to lose Petr," said Frank Lampard. "He's been in fantastic form, as everyone knows, and he has always been up there with the best in the world and no one wants to lose that. But (Henrique) Hilario has never let us down at all."
Chelsea return to Stamford Bridge for the second leg with the tie delicately poised following their unlucky defeat at San Siro.
"It's in the balance, it's difficult to say how the tie is poised," Lampard admitted. "Inter Milan are a good team, not to be underestimated. I would say it's 50-50. Maybe we deserved more from the game and on the balance of play and shots on target we felt the stronger team."
Asked what effect the result would have on Inter coach -- and former Chelsea manager -- Jose Mourinho, Lampard, who is close to the Portuguese, replied: "I think he'll see it as a very good challenge. He is obviously in the lead and he'll take positives from that from his end.
"They are no mugs at all, they've got very good players. Of course we had a lot of possession and we were the stronger team but it might suit them to play on the counter-attack more. That's their style."
Lampard said he expected Mourinho, who tried to sign him for Inter, to receive "a fantastic reception" on his return to Stamford Bridge after being sacked in 2007.
"He is the most successful manager in our history and the fans will want to pay their respects to him. I'm sure he will want to pay his respects to the club. Our fans will give him a great reception."
Inter midfielder Sulley Muntari said that the opportunity to knock Chelsea out of the competition meant "a lot" to Mourinho.
"He did well at Chelsea, winning many trophies, so the club is a part of him," the former Portsmouth player said.
"But he is now at Inter and we want to win so that we can progress. We have the advantage with the two goals. But the goal they have scored will have given them a big boost." (© Daily Telegraph, London).