City optimism in short supply as Tevez heads for hamstring scan
Meanwhile, transfer talk resurfaces with Inter keen on £30m deal
Carlos Tevez will undergo the hamstring scan today which will dictate whether he will play a part in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final, though the initial prognosis of the Manchester City doctors is as gloomy as Roberto Mancini indicated in the immediate aftermath of defeat to Liverpool.
Tevez was on a day off yesterday, delaying a confirmed verdict from Mancini's medical staff, but a two-week absence is their initial view, which would also put Tevez out of the league visit to Blackburn on Monday week. A contribution at Wembley from the Argentine – whose interview for Saturday evening's match programme forms one of the main items on City – cannot be entirely ruled out. He has had a habit of dramas preceding matches against Manchester United – including his questioning of Mancini's training methods and, in February, his daughter severing her fingers in a door – only for him to put things behind him and become the hero of the hour. But there was little optimism to be found around Carrington yesterday about the prospects of a player, described last week by Gary Neville as City's best player by a distance, appearing against his old club.
As the season reaches its finale, there is no more certainty that City have managed to settle the 27-year-old in the four months since chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak sat him down at Eastlands and told him that his transfer request would not be granted. Reports in Italy yesterday suggested that Internazionale are ready to offer Tevez an escape and are keen to sign him in a £30m deal, with his compatriot Diego Milito heading to Eastlands as part of a deal. The suggestions from Italy are that if Tevez is allowed to leave for San Siro, Inter would not impede Mancini's attempts to sign forward Alexis Sanchez from Udinese.
The "mistake" Mancini admitted to making in the aftermath of Monday's match may be the decision to play Tevez at Anfield, rather than avoid throwing him into a City performance described by Gareth Barry yesterday as the club's worst of the season. There had been initial doubts about Tevez's availability for City's home match with Sunderland a week earlier as he recuperated from a 2mm tear to his groin and in the circumstances, Mancini may now wonder why he risked Tevez for that game.
The more likely meaning of Mancini's admission of culpability at Anfield appears to be his decision to keep Nigel de Jong on the bench. Mancini said in the Anfield press room late on Monday night that his mistake had been "both" one of tactics and preparation and Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll would surely not have dominated the space in front of the City defence had the Dutchman been there.
Gareth Barry pinpointed that area of Liverpool domination as the critical one. "Liverpool's front two were probably the difference between the two teams," Barry said. "Their movement caused us a lot of problems. They pinned us back and created a lot of chances." Barry declared it was "too early to say" if Tevez would be missing on Saturday – "you never know" – and admitted that it had been hard to get thoughts of the United clash out of mind, despite the greater significance of maintaining the pursuit of a top-four place. "It's hard not to think about that [United] game because it was getting mentioned even when it was two or three weeks away," Barry said.
Mancini had few alternatives defensively, except perhaps to field Pablo Zabaleta at right-back in Micah Richards' absence rather than Dedryck Boyata, who struggled in a dreadful defensive display by City. With Richards not fit for Wembley, Mancini could now have used the pace of Nedum Onuoha, committed on loan at Sunderland, and generally a player who performs better in the second half of the season. The central defensive partnership of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott also looks less secure than Kolo Touré and Kompany.
The reaction of James Milner to his own substitution did not provide any sense that City are fighting for Mancini and if Tevez is missing for Wembley, it will be for the manager to engender a spirit in the side which enables them to play with freedom and belief. It is often forgotten that nurturing a fervent underdog is something Mancini built a reputation on during his Italian career. When he took over the debt-ridden Fiorentina after hanging up his boots in 2001, he took them to an Italian Cup. His popularity with the players there and at his beloved Sampdoria is legendary.
Kenny Dalglish is certainly building that kind of popularity at Anfield, where 18-year-old debutant John Flanagan discovered two hours before kick-off that he was starting against City. Flanagan yesterday revealed that his father had been a Liverpool trainee who did not make the grade but once cleaned the current manager's boots.
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