Tevez's rapid strides put Cup final back on agenda

 

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An extraordinary training session by Carlos Tevez yesterday provided a good indication that he is winning his battle to be fit for the FA Cup final. Though the Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini put the striker's prospects of facing Stoke City at only 50-50 yesterday morning, Tevez played a full part in a 10-a-side game, scoring, and looking back to his usual self only days after returning to full training following a hamstring injury.

Tevez has been positive all week about his prospects of appearing in the final a week tomorrow. But doctors have been more sceptical. Mancini reiterated yesterday that the Argentine must play a part against Tottenham on Tuesday if he is to feature at Wembley. And though 72 hours ago his place on the bench seemed doubtful for that game, the picture seems to be changing.

Despite the development, Mancini declared yesterday that City are no longer dependent on Carlos Tevez for success and have built a team who can take them to the Champions League, and an FA Cup triumph without him.

"I need every player 200 per cent for the final. I can't play with one player who is 50 per cent. It is impossible," Mancini said. "Without [Tevez], we are missing a fantastic striker. But we have built a team this year. We have bought a lot of good players. When we are missing one or two important players but we have a team, we always have a team."

Tevez's 25 goals in all competitions dwarf the contribution of City's other players – Mario Balotelli and Yaya Touré are the next best contributors with 10 each – but Mancini said the collective was bigger than the individual. "If we want to improve as a team and keep on winning then you have to play without important players like Carlos, Yaya [Touré], like [David] Silva," he added.

Jerome Boateng will be a member of that collective next year, with Mancini unwilling to allow Bayern Munich to take the £10.4m defender back to Germany after an indifferent first season following his summer move from Hamburg. Mancini, for whom a potentially vital 10 days in the club's history begins with a difficult trip to Everton tomorrow, again cited Manchester United as the prime example of collective strength. "United played eight or nine different players [against Schalke on Wednesday] from the side that will play against Chelsea. If you want to win you want to win like this. When you can make these changes you can still also play to win like them."

Mancini, whose discussion of the title race included the singling out of Chelsea's Fernando Torres as "an incredible player," rejected the idea that Tottenham, whose own pursuit of fourth may be extinguished by City on Tuesday evening, were more deserving of the place because of their flair. "If we are in fourth position for a long time and stay between first and fourth spot for one year then we have played really well and deserve to go in the Champions League."

Everton, the next obstacle in Mancini's quest, have beaten City in six out of their last seven encounters.

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