Mancini backs troubled City star to show strength of mind
Roberto Mancini has dispelled concerns over Wayne Bridge's ability to overcome the psychological hurdle of facing John Terry at Stamford Bridge today by insisting that the defender "absolutely" wants to play.
Bridge and Terry are due to come face to face for the first time since last month's revelations of an affair between the Chelsea captain and Bridge's former partner, and mother of his young son, Vanessa Perroncel.
The emotional trauma prompted Bridge to announce his retirement from England duty this week, ending his chances of playing in the World Cup and, more pertinently, the prospect of having to spend up to six weeks holed up with Terry in South Africa this summer.
But while the breakdown of Bridge's relationship with Terry proved painful enough for the City full-back to withdraw from the international stage, City manager Mancini insists that it will be business as usual for the £90,000-a-week defender this lunchtime.
Mancini said: "Wayne wants to play against Chelsea. Absolutely. He will play and he will play very well. He wants to play well for himself and for the club. We want to finish in fourth position in the Premier League and for this to happen, our big players must play well and Wayne is a very important player.
"He will be in the team for this game. Why not?" he added.
Privately, Mancini is known to be exasperated by the attention surrounding Bridge. The Italian believes his players should focus on their football and not allow off-field issues to affect their performances on the pitch.
Mancini has not considered resting Bridge today, despite the difficulties it may pose for the defender, and he admits any decision on whether Bridge should shake Terry's hand prior to the game must be made by the player himself.
Mancini said: "If Wayne wants to speak to me about these matters, then I would speak with him and tell him my thoughts, but that would be private. Wayne is a good man, though, and he has a strong mentality. If he gives all of his concentration to the match, then that will be good for us."
Bridge's decision to call time on his England career came as a surprise to Mancini, who was not consulted.
"I thought he would be in the national team, but it is his decision,'' Mancini said.
"I don't know what's changed because when I spoke about this two weeks ago, I thought Wayne would carry on for England, but only he can explain his decision.
"I am sorry for him and for England because, for me, every player should want to play for their national team, especially at a World Cup," added Mancini.
With former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor banned for four games, Mancini is set to restore Carlos Tevez to the starting line-up having been without the forward for four games while he was on compassionate leave following the premature birth of his daughter in Argentina.
And while Tevez has played down suggestions of a rift with Mancini over the issue, the former Manchester United player was hardly conciliatory when asked about the matter prior to his flight back from Buenos Aires on Thursday evening.
Tevez said: "Mancini knew from the beginning (about the reason for my absence), but he's under a lot of pressure as the team is not winning. He is under pressure for me to come back, but we have already discussed everything and I am calm.
"I am sure he understood. If he didn't understand, I don't care. With family issues, football takes a back seat."
Meanwhile, City's Craig Bellamy has been left out of the Wales squad for next week's friendly against Sweden in Swansea.
The striker is fit again after missing his country's last friendly international with a knee injury, but manager John Toshack has chosen to stick with the youthful attack that impressed against Scotland in November. (© Daily Telegraph, London)