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In brief: Mancini wants fans' backing

Roberto Mancini has called for Manchester City's loyal supporters to stand with his players for the final push through the Champions League barrier.

City host Sunderland today sitting fourth in the Premier League table, and know if they stay there they will be able to sit at European football's top table, barring an improbable triumph from fifth spot by either Chelsea or Tottenham.

Mancini knows it is imperative to arrest a slump in form that has seen City win just twice in their last seven league games.

The Italian has most of his players fit again, which undoubtedly helps, but he realises they may need a kick-start from fans who have grown so used to failure down the years.

"The fans have to be patient," he said. "They are very good but it is especially important that they stay close to us for the last two months of the season."

The return of skipper Carlos Tevez from the groin injury that kept him out of City's defeat at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago could be pivotal.

Man City v Sunderland Sky Sports 1, 4.0

Hughes praise for Holloway

Fulham boss Mark Hughes insists that beneath Ian Holloway's comical persona lies a sharp footballing brain.

Hughes' friendship with the Blackpool boss started before the Tangerines' debut season in the Premier League. Holloway, who takes his team to Craven Cottage today, is a colourful figure but Hughes refuses to be deceived by his antics.

"I really enjoy his company, as you'd expect. He's a great personality and a great guy to spend time with," Hughes said.

"What people have to understand is that although they laugh at his comments he knows his stuff. He's a very knowledgeable football man and sometimes when the statements come out that make people chuckle, that can be lost."

Holloway is hoping to revive Blackpool's fortunes after a recent slump that has seen them win just one of their last 11 league matches and are only one point above the relegation zone.

Fulham v Blackpool,

Sky Sports 1, 1.30

Celtic match hit by weather

Celtic's SPL clash with Inverness at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium was called off yesterday due to a waterlogged pitch. The match was scheduled for a noon kick-off but heavy overnight rain has affected the playing surface.

Celtic said that following a pitch inspection yesterday morning, the game has been called off with a new date yet to be confirmed.

Meanwhile, Rangers blew the chance to move top of the SPL as Dundee United claimed a last-gasp win at Ibrox. The Gers would have seen them leapfrog their rivals to the summit.

But Rangers were twice pegged back when goals from Nikica Jelavic and Steven Naismith were cancelled out by David Robertson and Johnny Russell before David Goodwillie netted a last-minute winner.

Long hits 50th Reading goal

Shane Long grabbed his 50th goal for Reading as they moved into the Championship play-off places after beating Portsmouth 2-0.

The Republic of Ireland international grabbed two first-half goals for Brian McDermott's side to see off Portsmouth -- who had Ricardo Rocha sent off before the break.

Steve Cotterill's side had created some fine early chances but never recovered from Long's brace and despite a spirited display could not reply.

Earlier, Leeds held their nerve to keep their promotion hopes alive and deal a massive blow to those of Nottingham Forest with a 4-1 victory, while promotion-chasing Norwich beat Scunthorpe 6-0.

Record over for Mourinho

Jose Mourinho lost his first home league match in more than nine years as Real Madrid's title hopes suffered a huge blow with a shock defeat against Sporting Gijon at the Bernabeu.

Miguel de las Cuevas, the former Atletico Madrid player, netted the only goal of the game in the 79th minute to end not only Mourinho's remarkable personal run but also Madrid's 100 per cent record at home this season.

This defeat leaves Madrid adrift of Barcelona at the summit and is a blow to morale ahead of Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Tottenham.

Even the return of Gonzalo Higuain after more than four months out through injury could not help Madrid, who badly missed key players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso.

With several first-team players absent, Madrid lacked any real spark and they rarely threatened visiting goalkeeper Juan Pablo Colinas.

Sunday Indo Sport