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Trophies on the menu for Mancini’s men

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By Jonathan Swindlehurst

Friday 13 May 2011

Tuesday night’s win against Tottenham saw the culmination of what Manchester City have been trying to achieve since the heavy investment arrived from the Middle East. Qualifying for the Champions League not only means an elevation in the standard of football witnessed at Eastland’s next season, it also brings with it a real bargaining tool for potential new signings. Not only will players be offered vast sums of money to ply their trade in the blue half of Manchester, nothing will be lost on the playing side. For many this is the turning point where the millions will push City to become a real force in the game.

Getting into the Champions League may be the first step on the rung of success, but for an ownership structure throwing so much money at a football club there is nothing like winning trophies. Since Roman Abramovich’s millions have been pumped into Chelsea the Russian has become obsessed with silverware – the least he could ask for considering the money he’s spent. For City, the FA Cup final this Saturday – in terms of early success in the current regime – is just as important as a place in next season’s Champions League.

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With Stoke City standing in their way, this represents a huge chance for City to gain their first top-level trophy in over three decades, but an improvement in recent performances must be made. In taking on Spurs on Tuesday City faced a team with one win in 13 matches, whereas Stoke are coming off the back of some strong recent performances, most notably last weekend’s win against Arsenal and the five goal rout of Bolton in the semi-final. City certainly face a daunting task considering the form of some of their own players.

It is extremely unlikely that Carlos Tevez will start the game, having only played a matter of minutes since picking up an injury at Anfield last month. If this remains the case and Edin Dzeko continues in a central striker role, City’s attack may well appear the poorer of the two on show at Wembley. In Kenwyne Jones, Stoke have a striker who on his day can cause problems for any Premier League defence. Combined with the current form of Jermaine Pennant, this could cause real trouble for a central defensive partnership which struggled to cope with high balls last weekend.

Considering the outlay City have made the team at times lacks the flair that should be associated with those sums of money. Indeed against Spurs the attack often looked too pedestrian and must be improved on vastly on Saturday. With players like Nigel de Jong City will be up for the battle, but if they are to come out on top both David Silva and Yaya Toure must be on top form for the entirety of the encounter. Both these players cut Everton apart in the first half of last Saturday’s encounter at Goodison, but when the tide turned and the Toffees imposed themselves on the game they went missing. It is unlikely Stoke will start as badly as Everton and will look to impose themselves physically from the outset. Silva and Toure must ride this to really prove their worth when it counts.

With the money that has been spent on this team, a trophy is the least they should deliver. If this comes on Saturday alongside the spot in the Champions League, Eastlands may just start to look even more attractive for potential signings.

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