Premier League

Suarez is still Mancini's pick

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Sat, 27 Apr 2013 11:32:00

Reading manager Nigel Adkins says he has no problem with Adam Le Fondre and has hinted there is still a place for the striker in his plans.

Le Fondre has started just once since Adkins took over at the club last month and was an unused substitute in last Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Norwich.

The 12-goal striker said after that match he was unsure where his future lies amid speculation linking him with Leeds, where former Reading boss Brian McDermott is now in charge, and newly-promoted Cardiff.

But Adkins says he has spoken with the 26-year-old over his situation and feels he could still have a part to play as relegation-threatened Reading face the prospect of plying their trade in the Championship next season.

The manager told the Daily Star: "I've had a good conversation about the whole situation with Alfie (Le Fondre).

"We like him a lot. I started him against Southampton and he came on against Liverpool.

"Maybe he could have come on against Norwich, but we were in a good position in the game.

"I think it is great that a player wants to play and if they can't start then they want to make an impact off the bench.

"That's great for me and that's what you want - people here fighting for the cause.

''I've got no issues at all with Alfie and he has been very professional in everything he's done."

King, who turned 33 on Friday, was arrested after a three-car accident on the Lincoln-bound carriageway of the A46/A17 interchange.

A 35-year-old man, with serious leg injuries, was airlifted to Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre from the scene of the incident which involved a Porsche, a Volkswagen Polo and a Vauxhall Astra.

The road was closed for two-and-a-half hours following the crash, which also left other occupants of the cars suffering from whiplash injuries.

King was released on Friday night pending further inquiries into the crash in Winthorpe, near Newark.

The former Middlesbrough, Coventry and Watford striker has been out of action since having knee surgery in March that ended his season prematurely.

The Blues currently lie fourth in the Premier League table, a point ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham and one behind third-placed Arsenal, over whom they have a game in hand.

Rafael Benitez's side are also on course to reach the final of the Europa League after Thursday's semi-final first leg victory over Basle.

But Laudrup believes securing a place at European football's top table is of more importance to the current Champions League holders, particularly claiming a top-three spot to avoid having to go through the qualifying stages.

"For a club like Chelsea it would be a huge disappointment if they do not reach the Champions League," said the Dane.

"They have to go into the Champions League not only because of the money but also the prestige.

"The top clubs feel they have to be in that competition every year. Chelsea need to be there."

He added: "There are four places for the Champions League, but there is always that small doubt about the fourth spot because you have to play one round before you go into the group stages.

"All the big clubs want to avoid that so Chelsea will be going for the third spot."

Given the vast amount Chelsea paid to secure the services of Fernando Torres a little over two years ago, the Spaniard should be viewed as a key figure in their push for a top-four spot.

But the 29-year-old has not scored a Premier League goal since December 23, a run of almost 1,000 minutes of top-flight action without finding the net.

However, Laudrup remains wary of the striker's abilities.

He said: "Fernando has played under enormous pressure. It is not easy for him.

"But, as a player, you have to accept that especially when a team spends ?50million on you. People in Spain still have a lot of respect for him.

"Torres is always a key man you have to stop. One of the worst things you can do is say, 'he hasn't scored for a long time so we will leave him'. He still has a lot of quality."

The Uruguayan has accepted a 10-game ban for the indiscretion during last weekend's 2-2 draw between Liverpool and Chelsea, meaning he will miss the first six matches of next season.

Suarez, who last year served an eight-game ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra, has been widely criticised, but Mancini believes the punishment is too harsh.

The Italian picked the Liverpool striker as his player of the season, and said: "He made a mistake, he said sorry to everyone, do you want to kill him? He has got his punishment. It's finished."

Suarez's absence for almost a sixth of next season will be a major blow to Liverpool, who will be desperate to challenge at the top of the table once more.

This season's title race was a disappointment after the drama of last term, with United wrapping things up last Monday a month before the end of the campaign.

Only City mounted anything like a challenge, and Mancini has called on the other Premier League powers to ensure it is more of a contest next season.

The Italian said: "I'm sure we will (be better) because we made some mistakes this season but we showed when we played United that we are like them.

"We need to change our mentality in some situations. When we play games that we think are easy, if you don't play 100 per cent and don't defend or attack well and play a strong game - we lost games against Sunderland, Southampton, we didn't win against QPR and West Ham and Chelsea, games where we lost stupid points where we could win.

"I hope that next season all the teams can be improved and all the other teams will be better than this year and five or six teams will play for the title.

"In the last two years, only us and United play for the title. I hope that next season it will be Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal, that would be better for the championship."

City's focus will also be on performing much better in the Champions League after two group-stage exits.

The Bundesliga took centre stage this week as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund put four past Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, but Mancini does not believe there is a gulf in class.

He said: "There are some moments where some teams like Bayern and Borussia play very well and play fantastic football and maybe next year they will not play like that in the crucial moment.

"I don't think that Real are worse than Borussia but Borussia deserved to win.

"It's one game. It's not one season. Why can't we beat Bayern or Borussia next season? Last season Dortmund went out in the Champions League group stage."

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