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'Don't pass up City chance'

ROBERTO Mancini has thrown down the gauntlet to Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and other potential signings by warning them not to make a "big mistake" by shunning Manchester City if the club are unable to offer them Champions League football next season.

The City manager has urged his players to "change the club's history" by beating Tottenham Hotspur to the coveted fourth spot in the Premier League. But the Italian believes that even if they lose out in the frantic battle for a seat at the high table of European football, prospective world-class signings should not be deterred from joining the club.

Mancini is confident that City will be challenging for the Premier League title next season and wants potential targets, such as Torres and Gerrard, of Liverpool, to look beyond the short term when deciding their futures.

"I think if we do finish fourth we will have a good chance of getting two or three really good players for next season," Mancini said.

"But I think it will be a big mistake from players if they don't want to come here if we don't finish fourth because I think in the future Manchester City will be a fantastic team.

"We have a chance to make history. We have worked very hard for this and that is a good thing. We want to change the history of the club. When Sheikh (Mansour) bought the club I think he wanted to change its history and the future. We also want to achieve this.

"Being in the Champions League would allow us to progress. It is important for the club and everyone here. But we must not be nervous and I don't think the players are. They are all concentrated."

Although fourth place will guarantee City or Tottenham only a place in the Champions League qualifying rounds, either club will stand to earn at least £20m if they get through to the group stage of the competition. With Tottenham, who are a point ahead of City in the table, facing a fixture away to Burnley on the final day of the season on Sunday that they should win, Mancini knows his team must succeed tonight if they are to retain a good chance of finishing fourth.

Gareth Barry, the England midfield player, may return from a hamstring injury in a boost for City, although there were thought to be some concerns over the fitness of Carlos Tevez last night.

There were suggestions that the Argentina forward, who is City's leading scorer with 29 goals this season, suffered a leg injury in training yesterday, although it was unclear whether it was serious enough to affect his involvement in the game.

"This game will probably decide where we finish this season," Mancini said. "If we win we have probably a 70 to 80 per cent chance of getting fourth. Of course, after that, we must also play a difficult game in London against West Ham United but against Spurs, I do feel as though we can change our history so we must be positive.

"I can see how much people here want this.

"I would like all the people who work here to leave with a good feeling. I like this situation."

Mancini was reluctant to discuss his future. "My future does not come down to this game. It's not important what happens with me now," he said, and added that Mark Hughes, his predecessor as manager, would deserve "50 per cent of the credit" if City finished fourth.

© The Times, London