Mancini dismisses play-off plan

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini does not like the idea of a Premier League play-off for the final Champions League spot.

City have never competed in the Champions League but they are currently in fourth place and could strengthen their hold on it with victory over Liverpool at Eastlands on Sunday.

Under the proposed play-off plan, finishing fourth would not guarantee entry into Europe’s elite competition and Mancini has railed against the possibility.

He thinks it is too much to ask of players at the end of a gruelling campaign of league and cup fixtures.

Mancini said: "I do not like this idea. The players have so many games in one year. Then in May you are asking them to play more matches for fourth position."

The Italian will be without three key players for this crucial game. Carlos Tevez is in Argentina dealing with a family matter, Patrick Vieira starts a three-match ban and there are fears Martin Petrov could be out for up to four weeks with a knee injury.

Tevez will miss his third game in a row and City then take on Stoke in an FA Cup replay followed by title-chasing Chelsea in a hectic round of fixtures. Mancini is anxious to see Tevez back in a City shirt sooner rather than later.

He said: "I hope he comes back as quickly as possible. I am frustrated he is not with us. It is a problem as we have some very important games coming up and we need him.

"I don’t think he will be here on Sunday but maybe he will come back Monday for the Stoke game."

Former Arsenal midfielder Vieira opted not to contest a charge of violent conduct after kicking out at Stoke’s Glenn Whelan during a league game this week.

Since joining City, he has already been booked twice in four appearances.

His first came against Hull earlier this month before he received another yellow card on Tuesday for a separate foul on Mamady Sidibe.

Mancini was disappointed with Vieira’s conduct, and said: "Patrick made a mistake as far as I am concerned.

"He will now miss three important matches. It is a big problem for me, as he is experienced, and for Patrick, as he needs games."

Mancini, meanwhile, has admitted having an argument with Craig Bellamy but denied a report of a serious rift with the striker.

Bellamy could in fact come into contention against Liverpool after being sidelined with a knee injury.

Mancini revealed they had a difference of opinion about the way the problem was being managed.

He said: "He wanted to work in one mode, I preferred another mode. The matter is now resolved."