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Toure: Title race is a toss-up

Despite City's two-point advantage at the top of the Premier League, Kolo Toure reckons that the title race between the two Manchester clubs is now too close to call.

Both sides will go into tomorrow's fixtures in the wake of defeats in the Europa League. However, while Alex Ferguson could talk of resting Rio Ferdinand for United's home game with West Bromwich Albion, Roberto Mancini will probably require every fit and available defender at Swansea.

Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta are definitely out for City while fellow defender Joleon Lescott is a doubt, which puts a significant strain on Toure's shoulders as the season enters its decisive phase.

"It will be tough now because of all the experience and quality Manchester United have," said Toure.

"To be honest, it's 50-50. We need to be careful, but it's going to be a great end to the season.

"The best scenario for us would be to win all our games and then have a 'final' against Manchester United to win it; but the season is a long one and there are no small teams."

At the Liberty Stadium, Swansea have lost as many home games as United have at Old Trafford -- two -- and Mancini's side will be flying directly to Wales from Portugal after a 1-0 defeat to Sporting Lisbon, where their performance appeared dulled by tiredness.

Perhaps it was a night when Manchester City missed the marauding presence of Kolo's brother, Yaya, who has been the club's most effective outfield player as the season has entered its business phase.

Seven years ago, Newcastle, having suffered a far heavier defeat in the Jose Alvalade, stayed on in Portugal, flew straight to Wales and were humiliated by United in an FA Cup semi-final staged at the Millennium Stadium. City would hope for better.

"The Swansea game is going to be like a final for us," Toure said. "Every game we play between now and the end of the season is going to be massive. We will give our all against Swansea."

Nevertheless, with Mancini suddenly short of defenders and competing on two fronts, Toure is now a central figure on the pitch a year after he was given a six-month ban for taking an unauthorised substance -- his wife's slimming pills.

"That is why I am here," said the Ivorian. "We have a big squad and every time the manager needs a player to come in and give of his best, we have to do it.

"I will give everything, as I have always done.

"I am more hungry than ever after the difficult time I have had and I just want to play well for the team.

"I am here to pass on my experience. The team needs experience and quality -- and now is the time to show it." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent