Premier League

Mancini to decide on departures

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Sun, 03 Mar 2013 09:53:00

PSG director Leonardo suggested his team are more suited to playing in the Champions League than Ligue 1 after an embarrassing defeat to 10-man Reims.

Carlo Ancelotti's side went down 1-0 in Reims as Grzegorz Krychowiak scored in the 64th minute, six minutes after the hosts had Christopher Glombard sent off for a second bookable offence.

PSG had already seen Zlatan Ibrahimovic denied a goal for a questionable offside decision, but missed several other chances and surrendered vital ground in the tight Ligue 1 title race.

It was a second away defeat in a row for PSG and Leonardo warned there could be more as his expensively-assembled team was constructed for grander stages.

"We are perhaps not made to play in these types of games," the Brazilian told Infosport. "We created a team to play in the Champions League, not the championship.

"We don't know yet how to handle games where the situation is against us, where the surface is difficult and we have an important game every three days."

However bold their ambitions on the continental stage, Leonardo admitted they must find a way to win at home in order to stay in control of the title race.

"When games are based on a fight, we do not succeed," he said. "We will have to learn how to face games like these when it gets tough, as they are common here and this will not be the last time."

But while Leonardo's comments seemed to question PSG's title credentials, coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted he had no worries about his team's attitude.

"It's a big disappointment, because we had the opportunity to win this game with the chance for (Ezequiel) Lavezzi in the first half and the (disallowed) goal of Ibrahimovic in the second," Ancelotti said.

"The only thing I can say is we have to accept this defeat and better manage matches like this."

Prior to this match, PSG had enjoyed back-to-back victories over rivals Marseille in the league and cup, but they also lost their last league outing away from home in losing 3-2 to Sochaux.

"This is different to Sochaux," Ancelotti added. "Today we do not have any attitude problem. It was not a problem of concentration, but a technical thing. We encountered difficulties in the game because the pitch was not good. If you cannot play football, it is hard.

"But I cannot be angry because the team is doing a good job and we are still leading (the table). We might have won if Lavezzi took that chance and then the officials had made a different decision."

Tevez has re-established himself as a regular in Roberto Mancini's side this season, something that was almost unthinkable last year as he went on unauthorised leave in his homeland for several months, apparently ready to quit the game.

"I knew it wasn't going to be easy to come back," Tevez told the Sunday Times. "I'd left City and you could almost say I'd left through the back door. But it is almost like there are two Tevezes. There's the Tevez before, who had a problem, and there's the Tevez now, who no longer has problems."

Tevez said the key has been getting his family back together. Tevez had requested a transfer from City prior to his walkout when his wife and children returned to Argentina, but now they are all back in England Tevez said he has a different perspective on his football.

"It totally changes everything, your disposition, your humour, just having them close," he said. "If I wasn't selected in the past I'd be in a terrible mood. Now I'm still gutted but I go home, see my daughters, it takes my mind off it and I feel better."

The 29-year-old has 11 goals in 33 appearances in all competitions this season, not quite matching the outstanding return of his pre-walkout days but still a highly valuable part of Roberto Mancini's strikeforce.

Despite that, a sizeable number of City fans still bear a grudge after last season, with Tevez's goals often met with a more muted celebration than those of his team-mates.

Tevez can understand that, but is still working to win them over with his new attitude.

"I knew it would be difficult for the fans to accept me again," he said. "But I hope, little by little, match by match...you give everything for the shirt and win them over through hambre de gloria (hunger for glory). I was once a real idol for these fans, they were so supportive of me. I hope I'm able to win them back."

While his standing with the supporters still needs work, Tevez is adamant he and Mancini are now "fine", their once fiery relationship "a lot calmer now".

"It might be down to maturity," he added. "Maybe, before, I was under a lot more pressure. I was a leader of the team. People would often say, 'If Carlos has a bad day, City have a bad day'. Maybe you just reach a point where there's worse things in life than disappointment in football.

"If I come off the bench and score but I'm not in the next starting line-up I'm a lot more accepting."

Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford on Tuesday as Real Madrid take on United in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash.

The Portuguese star's future has been the subject of speculation for the last few weeks as talks over a new deal at the Bernabeu have dragged on.

Although Ferguson has previously admitted he would love to see Ronaldo back at Old Trafford he has dismissed talk that a move could be on the cards this summer.

"There hasn't been anything to encourage me to think Cristiano would come back here," said Ferguson.

"As far as I am aware, there is nothing in it at all. Ronaldo has got two years left on his contract and it seems to me it is all part of the negotiations that are going on about a new deal.

"Maybe his agent is playing the game. I think it is false hope. Cristiano will get a good reception. All our former players, especially the ones who have been great for this club, get a good reception when they return."

Ferguson believes Ronaldo is at the peak of his career and has joked he has two ways to try and stop the forward ending their Champions League dreams.

"He is a better player now than he was when he was with us because he has matured," added Ferguson. "He is 28 and at the peak of his career. From 28 to 32, with the fitness Ronaldo has got - he never misses a game and is never injured - he will be at his absolute best," he continued.

"I've got a plan to stop him: it's called a machete. Plan B is a machine gun!"

Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford for the first time since his world record ?80million move to Real Madrid, bidding to dump his old club out of the Champions League.

The former World Player of the Year has already done some damage, cancelling out Danny Welbeck's opener at the Bernabeu three weeks ago.

Any intervention this week could prove terminal to United's hopes of progress but, having spoken to his former team-mate in the aftermath of that 1-1 draw in Madrid, Evra feels Ronaldo may find it difficult knowing so much good feeling for him remains amongst the Red Devils faithful.

"It is difficult when you play with love," Evra told MUTV.

"Cristiano will get a great reception on Tuesday because of what he achieved for Manchester United. The fans will never forget what he did.

"Also, he still loves the club.

"I remember after the game in Madrid we had a chat.

"He said it was going to be more difficult to come here.

"This is his house, so there will be a lot of emotion. I hope he doesn't play well because of that.

"But Ronaldo is a winner. He is a big competitor. If he can win against Manchester United he will do it."

Agbonlahor is currently Villa's longest-serving player - he made his debut seven years ago - and the England international has often been linked with a move away from the club.

He will come face to face on Monday evening with Manchester City duo Gareth Barry and James Milner who both opted to move on, but academy product Agbonlahor is content to remain with Villa even though he is still searching for his first trophy.

He said: "Do I regret being a one-club player? I think, for me, I have always enjoyed playing my football here at Villa so it's hard for me to say that.

"Players who have left the club have had their reasons for leaving.

"For me I've always enjoyed playing my football, maybe other than the one season where I wasn't playing as much as I wanted to, which was disappointing.

"Apart from that, I have enjoyed my football and when that it the case you have no reason to look elsewhere.

"If that changed, then you would have to obviously look elsewhere. But if I'm in the team and enjoying my football, there is no reason to do that."

When asked if the possibility exists for him to never win a trophy at Villa, Agbonlahor is hopeful that scenario will be avoided.

He said: "It's hard to say that. We were especially disappointed this season to lose to Bradford (in the Capital One Cup semi-final) but it showed we are getting closer.

"We got to a semi-final so we are closer to getting back to Wembley. Hopefully next season we can go that one step further.

"But, as much as you want to win things, as long as I am here and enjoying my football, and the club still want me, I am happy to stay here."

Villa dropped back into the Premier League bottom three after last weekend's defeat at Arsenal and were beaten 5-0 at City earlier in the campaign.

Agbonlahor said: "The Premier League is the only place you want to be playing. That is why, if I'm asked if I am thinking about relegation, the answer is I'm not.

"I am thinking about helping the team to get out of where we are now. This is the league you want to be playing in, the best league in the world. There's no reason I'd want to leave it.

"Does the threat of relegation scare me? I think it would scare anyone. As long as you are in the bottom three, it is in your mind as a player.

"But, if it was a massive gap, you would be a lot more scared. But it is only a point or two and you are out of there.

"Hopefully we start getting points against the teams around us. We play QPR and Reading soon, which are massive games and then you start to think you can climb."

Agbonlahor added: "Between now and the end of the season that (relegation) can't be on our mind.

"We just want to get the results sooner or later to get out of the current situation.

"We have games coming up we feel we can win, and that's what we have to do, go into every game feeling we can win.

"There will be twists and turns but, if we can go into games with the attitude and the tempo we have been showing, we will be okay."

Agbonlahor admits the clash with City has important consequences for both teams.

He said: "Is it a must-win situation? I think they know that as well. I don't want to talk about that part of the league because we have got to concentrate on our situation.

"But, if you ask them, they know they will need to win every game as Manchester Utd don't drop too many points.

"We have got to concentrate on our own game and what we are fighting for. As long as we go into the game fighting, we will try and get a result.

"As much as they need to win, we need to win as well. We need points as well."

City's hopes of retaining the Premier League title are looking increasingly bleak after Manchester United once again increased their advantage at the top of the table to 15 points.

But Mancini is not giving up the fight and still feels his team have plenty to play for in both the league and the FA Cup, in which City face Barnsley in the quarter-finals next week.

That gives some players chance to underline their worth to Mancini as the manager - who remains confident in his own position at the Etihad Stadium - starts to think ahead to how he might reshape the squad in the summer.

City have already been linked with a host of players, including Napoli's Edinson Cavani and Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez, and Mancini admits he has some targets in mind.

He said: "I think it is important the games we have from now until the end, very important.

"We know which players we can buy for the future but we don't know which players can leave.

"Also because some players (might) want to leave because here they don't play and they want more chances to play. Maybe it can happen."

When asked if he would make decisions over the final months of the season, Mancini said at a press conference: "Yes, maybe. Could be."

City have a chance to cut United's lead back to 12 points as they travel to struggling Aston Villa to play their game in hand on Monday.

Mancini's men were beaten by another relegation-threatened side in Southampton last month and another defeat to lowly opposition would be unthinkable at this stage.

Yet even with victory, City would still have just 10 games to turn around a seemingly impossible situation.

Mancini is relying on favours from elsewhere and hopes United's Champions League exertions - they face Real Madrid this week - will catch up with them.

He said: "I think every game could be difficult when you play every three days and at the moment Manchester United have a lot of games, important games, Champions League, FA Cup.

"We hope they can lose points but we don't know when or where."

By that thinking it would be in City's interests for United to progress to the quarter-finals at Real's expense this week, even though the Blues are allowing the Spanish giants to train at Eastlands.

Mancini has suggested as much in the past but he feels United, after a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu in the first leg, might have their work cut out.

He said: "I don't know. I think that Real Madrid, for me, are the best team with Barca at this moment and it will be hard for Manchester United.

"They played well in Madrid. In this game, I think everything is possible, all results."

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