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Sporting vs Man City - Match preview and prediction

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By Bryan Waters

Thursday 15 March 2012

This week has not been the greatest for Manchester City fans, players and manager Roberto Mancini. A defeat in the Estadio Jose Alvalade to Sporting Lisbon last week was compounded by defeat away at Swansea in the Premier League. Reports of Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure clashing in the Liberty Stadium tunnel at half-time, as well as footage of a Man City fan crying when Luke Moore scored for the Swans, has set a bad mood at the Etihad Stadium.

Mancini has called for no more tears and wants his side to hold their nerves as the closing weeks of the season come into view. Man City are still in the title race and will look to give themselves further confidence with a victory over another Portuguese opposition at the Etihad Stadium. Porto were taken to the sword thanks to a 4-0 win in their last European home tie and Mancini’s side have not lost a home tie in Europe since defeat to FC Midtjylland in August 2008.

Gareth Barry was unhappy with Mancini’s decision to replace him before half-time against Swansea and the England international is likely to miss this game with a back problem. Barry joins Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta on the treatment table, but Joleon Lescott is expected to make the bench after overcoming a slight groin problem. Mancini has the option of Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero or Edin Dzeko up front and could go with Aguero like the Italian did against Porto.

Sporting won the game in Portugal last week thanks to a cheeky backheel from defender Xandao in the second half. Man City did not play well in the Alvalade and Sporting took full advantage to give themselves a chance when they come to the Etihad Stadium. Ricardo Sa Pinto’s side have won five out of their last six fixtures, but only have one win in their last eight European away fixtures.

Sa Pinto’s men romped Vitoria Guimaraes 5-0 at the weekend and are full of confidence ahead of their trip to Manchester. Right-back Joao Pereira was booked in the first leg, which results in automatic suspension, and could be replaced by Bruno Pereirinha. Against Guimaraes, former Barcelona winger Jeffren came off the bench to score twice and he could be in line for a start at the Etihad Stadium. Ricky van Wolfswinkel has been targeted by several Premier League sides in the summer, but was not at full form against Man City last time out and will look to show much more.

With Man United on the verge of Europa League knock-out and facing a tough trip to Bilbao before Man City kick off, the blue half of Manchester will be hopeful for a positive result to give them confidence ahead of Wednesday night’s crunch Premier League clash with Chelsea. Man City have the ability to beat Sporting, but their lack of away goal could allow the Lisbon side to park the bus and cope with the Premier League side’s pressure. Quality attacking threats in David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Adam Johnson should give Mancini’s side the pass to the quarter finals.

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