Top 30 the target for in-form Aguero

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini believes Sergio Aguero can hit the 30-goal mark this season.

Signed in the summer for a club record £38million, Aguero has taken no time to adjust to Premier League life.

The Argentina star bagged two more goals in Wednesday night’s win over Stoke to take his overall tally to 15, 13 of which have come during City’s surge to the Premier League summit.

However, Mancini doesn’t want the 23-year-old former Atletico Madrid man to stop now.

With Manchester United just two points adrift of their neighbours heading into the Christmas programme, Mancini wants Aguero to lead City’s striking team to even greater achievements.

"I hope Sergio can score 30 goals," said the Blues boss.

"It is the same for Edin (Dzeko) and Mario (Balotelli). If they scored 50 goals between them it would be good for us."

Although it was generally acknowledged across Europe that Aguero was a player of exceptional talent, he could hardly have been expected to open his City career in such prolific fashion.

He joined the club at the end of July, when he came off the back of an arduous and unsuccessful Copa America campaign with Argentina.

Normally, players who have taken part in the South American championship either start slowly due to their lack of a pre-season programme, or flag after a couple of months because of tiredness.

Aguero has so far avoided both problems.

"Sergio is very strong physically," said Mancini.

"He is not tall but his strength is amazing.

"Also, he has always scored goals in every championship. For this reason I don’t think he has had any problems.

"He is still only young and maybe now his value is even more because he has scored 15 goals in three or four months.

"He has the confidence to score even more but what is important at the moment is that he has improved our team."

There is little doubt Mancini would want Aguero in his side for the major matches against Liverpool, all three of them, Manchester United and Tottenham in January.

It is therefore quite possible the striker will be rested for either the Boxing Day trip to West Brom and the New Year’s Day excursion to Sunderland.

That would require Dzeko to recover from the ankle injury that kept him out of the Stoke win though.

Micah Richards is City’s other minor fitness doubt ahead of Monday’s encounter at the Hawthorns.

That game brings Mancini together with Roy Hodgson, whom he encountered during the Englishman’s two spells in charge of Inter Milan.

"Roy is a fantastic manager," said Mancini.

"He knows all about football. He has managed a national team, he has managed in Italy and England, and has very strong experiences."

Hodgson was credited with keeping West Brom in the Premier League last term following an ill-fated short stint at Liverpool.

And, whilst the Baggies have struggled at times this year, successive away wins have got them moving in the right direction again.

"I always enjoy it at West Brom because the crowd is so passionate," said Mancini.

"They are a good team, who have just won their last two games away from him.

"If we want to win there we need to play very well."

Meanwhile, City captain Vincent Kompany has a "gut feeling" this will be his club’s season.

Mancini’s side have dropped just two points at home all season and sit top of the table on Christmas Day for the first time since 1929.

Having also ended the club’s 35-year-old trophy drought by winning the FA Cup in May, Kompany is more than happy with their progress and is optimistic they will have more to celebrate by the end of the campaign.

He told Sky Sports News: "This year in particular has certainly been proof of the fact we’re going about it the right way and that’s the main thing for us.

"I almost feel like I want to wait before I talk so much, but I really have a gut feeling that tells me that this is the season for us.

"It’s not based on the fact that I’m being pretentious because of the players we have in the team or the money that has been spent. It’s not about this.

"I feel we have a very good team spirit. This is something probably is the thing people don’t expect as much in our team.

"The fact I see it every single day motivates me even more because I believe we’ve got it more than what people see and what people think."

Kompany credits Mancini for the improvements made at City, saying the Italian’s "obsession" with getting better has driven the players on.

"He’s a very passionate man – there’s no mistake about that," the Belgium defender added. "What you see on the touchline is the man you get. He knows his football.

"He’s obsessed – in the same way a lot of players are in our team – with victory and getting better and making sure that even when we win we’re not looking back on the positive things but also on the things that went wrong so we can improve."

West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster admits he is driven on by the memory of his worst moment in football as he looks to ensure Premier League survival for a third successive season.

Foster was part of the Birmingham team relegated from the top flight at the end of last season, three months after winning the Carling Cup.

He joined Albion on loan last summer and suffered three successive defeats at the start of the current campaign.

But since then Foster has helped the Baggies steadily climb the table and they will go into Monday’s home clash with leaders Manchester City lying in 10th position.

Foster said: "I would like to think I’ve always given my best and that includes all the games at Birmingham where we ended up going down.

"But going down again is something to avoid. I’d rather not have that on my record to be honest. Being relegated with Birmingham was the worst thing I’ve experienced.

"We had half an hour of the season to go and we were safe. All of a sudden we weren’t. It was a terrible feeling. I don’t think the lads here need me to tell them how bad it is."

Foster admits he is unsure where his long-term future lies, but knows he wants to remain in the Premier League.

"I honestly don’t know what is happening to me," he added. "All I know is that it is a season-long loan. There’s no other agreements been made. I want to stay in the top flight.

"I’ve been fortunate to play in the Premier League for four or five seasons and that’s where you want to be."

The Baggies will be full of confidence after consecutive away wins over Blackburn and Newcastle.

But Foster added: "We know we have been playing well and it’s been a case of just waiting for it all to come together.

"It would be nice if we could get to a really comfortable position. It’s never nice if you have to play games that are considered to be six-pointers.

"Everyone gets a bit edgy when it’s all about who gets the three points."

One statistic Foster is keen to end is Albion’s unfortunate knack of given away penalties, with four conceded in the last four home games.

He said: "That’s probably the highest in the Premier League at the moment. That puts you a goal down straight away.

"People say that things like penalties even themselves out over the season, but I’m not sure about that. I think the bigger teams probably do get more in their favour."

Albion defender Gareth McAuley is quick to acknowledge the part played by Foster during the first half of the season.

He said: "When called upon, Ben makes the saves and that’s the mark of a top goalkeeper. We know he is that.

"He has been at one of the best clubs in the country in Manchester United and it’s nice to have him here behind us. It’s reassuring to have him there."

Midfielder James Morrison is expected to have recovered from the hamstring injury which forced him to miss the 3-2 win at Newcastle in midweek.

But doubts remain over whether full-back Steven Reid (ankle), midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu (groin) and winger Jerome Thomas (ankle) will be in contention after suffering setbacks at Newcastle.