Mancini upbeat despite City stumble
LONDON: Roberto Mancini insists he has no concerns about Manchester City’s dip in form in front of goal ahead of their decisive Champions League group game against Ajax.
City failed to score in a goalless Premier League draw away to West Ham on Saturday after beating Swansea by just a single goal last time out.
Italian manager Mancini will hope his forwards can improve on that return when they face Ajax at Eastlands on Tuesday in a game they must win to maintain a realistic chance of getting through to the knockout stages.
A failure to advance from the group phase would increase the pressure on Mancini, who has already been forced to respond to speculation linking former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola with a move to City.
But Mancini was adamant he was happy with the current form of his English champions, who are still the only unbeaten side in the Premier League this season and are just two points behind leaders Manchester United.
He highlighted the number of chances they created against West Ham as evidence of the level of the team’s performance.
“When you have so much possession and so many shots you deserve to win and we missed four incredible chances to score,” Mancini said.
“When you play well and you are missing incredible chances you can get frustrated. But this is football, when you don’t score, you can’t win.
“We conceded a lot of goals at the start of the season – now we have improved that defensive phase and we need to start to score like we did last year,” he added.
“We need to improve this offensive phase,” said Mancini after seeing City fail to find the target at Upton Park despite his decision to play three strikers in Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko in the starting line-up.”
Looking ahead to the Ajax match, Mancini said: “We have more chances to go through (in the Champions League).
“It’s important we finish in the group stage well.
“What the Ajax scouts think of us I don’t know, it’s not important; what the players think is.”
Balotelli was guilty of missing two good chances and displayed his frustration when he was substituted in the second half.
Mancini made it clear he expected more from the volatile forward.
“A player like Balotelli when he has a chance like today, he should score. But I don’t think he didn’t want to.”
City’s cause against Ajax will not be helped by injuries to central defender Joleon Lescott who was hurt in training on Friday and midfielder James Milner who pulled up in the warm-up at Upton Park.
“Lescott is out of the Ajax game,” said Mancini. “He has a back problem and I don’t think he can play. I think it is difficult for Milner too.”
City left West Ham with their unbeaten league record intact but it could have been worse for Mancini’s side had not Hammers midfielder Kevin Nolan’s early volley been incorrectly ruled out for offside.
“It should have been a goal,” said West Ham manager Sam Allardyce. “At such an early stage it would have given us the momentum to carry on.
But Allardyce was happy with the point at the start of a testing run of fixtures for his side, now in a highly creditable eighth place, that includes meetings with Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Newcastle.
“It gives us hope and confidence. We have a huge and difficult fixture list coming up and this one is the icing on the cake, to get a point against the champions.
“The big disappointment are the injuries. James Tomkins has a groin problem and James Collins has a hamstring injury.”