Sunday 25 February 2018

Mancini forced into high-risk game ahead of derby

Manchester City 1 Everton 1

Mark Ogden

In an ideal world, Roberto Mancini would prefer to board Manchester City's flight to Dortmund today with a travelling party resembling a collection of starry-eyed teenagers and twentysomethings on a Club 18-30 holiday.

The old heads and seasoned performers who have seen it all before could be left behind at Carrington to prepare for the more meaningful distraction of Sunday's Manchester derby against United while the kids get their first taste of something more exotic than a Thursday night playing for the reserves at Hyde.

As much as Mancini talks up the need to be focused on salvaging a Europa League place from their failed Champions League group campaign with a victory against German champions Borussia Dortmund tomorrow, the reality is that the trip to the Ruhr is something City could do without, with United on the horizon.

With injuries and suspensions beginning to mount at the Etihad, and the club's Abu Dhabi hierarchy keen to see City in the Europa League mix with the likes of Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid, Mancini has little option but to go for broke against Dortmund.

Everton's determined display on Saturday, when David Moyes' team emerged with a deserved point, underlined City's search for their best form this season, but there will be no opportunity for Mancini to rest his jaded players in Germany.

"With everybody we have got on the treatment table, we are not going to have much choice," claimed Mancini's assistant, David Platt, after Aleksandar Kolarov (groin) joined James Milner, Gael Clichy, Micah Richards and Jack Rodwell, and the suspended Yaya Toure, on the sidelines.

"But the fortunate thing is that Dortmund is a Tuesday night game and we have an extra day to recover because the derby isn't until Sunday. Four days is enough to recover, but we haven't got an advantage over United (who play Romanian club Cluj on Wednesday). They have already qualified and they can pick any team they want."

Despite Mancini's oft-criticised rotation policy, under which he restored Joleon Lescott and Carlos Tevez to the team against Everton following recent spells on the bench, the Italian appears to have done little to inject freshness into his squad.

The zip and purpose of last season have yet to return, but the counter argument is that City remain unbeaten in the league.

Few teams have tested their jaw this season as firmly as Everton. But in spite of the Merseysiders' lack of fear against a team that has not lost on home turf in the league since Moyes' players secured a 2-1 win at the Etihad in December 2010 – 37 games ago – City were still able to fight back from a goal down.

Once again, City's vulnerability in the air led to Joe Hart being beaten for Marouane Fellaini's opener. City equalised when referee Lee Probert awarded a penalty following Fellaini's tug on Edin Dzeko, and Tevez beat Tim Howard from the spot.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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