De Jong: Top four is main focus

Nigel de Jong believes Manchester City are hitting form at the right time, but admits reaching the Champions League is the main goal.

A place in the FA Cup final – and a chance of securing their first major trophy in 35 years – has been secured on May 14 following the victory against Manchester United at Wembley.

City are also in contention for a top-four finish and a spot in the Champions League for the first time.

Next up are struggling Blackburn on Monday at Ewood Park and De Jong said: "Our main goal is to finish in the Champions League.

"That game against United gave us a big confidence boost towards the next league game. It was a big statement and we have to maintain our focus.

"We have got better against United in the last year and a half. It is great, isn’t it?"

City strengthened the squad in the summer thanks to the financial muscle of owner Sheikh Mansour and De Jong is not surprised they have had their ups and downs.

"We have come quite far as a team, " he said. "As people say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

"A lot of new players have come into in the squad, a lot of new cultures. It takes time but you can see towards the end of the season everything is fitting perfectly.

"The spirit has never been away and will never go away. Everyone is fighting for each other. You have bad periods and good periods and this is a good period for us."

Manager Roberto Mancini, normally so reserved, wildly embraced the players at the end of the Wembley showdown which set up a meeting with Stoke next month.

De Jong smiled and said: "It was normal. If you reach the final you all bond, including the manager.

"Everyone was happy not just him but the staff and the players. But we knew we could not celebrate too much as we have the final to come. Then we can go crazy if we win."

Italian striker Mario Balotelli looks set to retain his place ahead of Edin Dzeko as Carlos Tevez has a hamstring injury.

With defender Micah Richards also absent with a similar problem, Pablo Zabaleta is set to stay in the team following the Wembley triumph.

Mancini wants an action replay of the United game and added: "If we have the same situation we will win a lot of matches.

"That is important because we lost many points in the last month. We cannot think of the final now."