Bridge must focus on Chelsea says Mancini

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The Independent Online

Roberto Mancini has urged Wayne Bridge to blank out the torment that is bound to be swirling through his mind at Stamford Bridge tomorrow and concentrate on helping Manchester City beat Chelsea.

Just 48 hours after withdrawing from England's World Cup plans, Bridge goes back to Stamford Bridge to confront the man who caused his agony, former team-mate John Terry.

In the light of revelations about Terry's affair with Vanessa Perroncel, mother of Bridge's young son, the 29-year-old City defender declared his position within Fabio Capello's squad as "untenable".

Now he must decide whether to shake Terry's hand during the traditional pre-match greeting.

It is hardly the most stable of situations ahead of a game that could prove pivotal to City's chances of carving something out of a season that has tailed off in recent weeks.

But Mancini is confident Bridge can handle the pressure, even though he had no inkling of the bombshell his full-back was about to land with his short statement yesterday lunchtime.

"I am sorry for Wayne and for England because it is important for any player to play for the national team," said Mancini.

"He didn't speak to me before he made the decision. I don't know what has changed, but he has changed his decision because I thought that he would play for the national team.

"But I respect what he has done.

"It is not affecting the club or the dressing room.

"He is a strong character, who has a strong mentality. Tomorrow Wayne must only think about the game because it is an important match for us."

It could be argued Bridge needs to face his demons. Once the game is over then Fabio Capello might get his wish and the former Southampton star will reverse his decision to turn his back on the England cause.

However, if Bridge remains resolute, it would seem somewhat unfair that he should be the one missing out rather than Terry, who has been stripped of the captaincy by Capello but is set to be named in the squad for next Wednesday's meeting with African Nations Cup winners Egypt.

"It is important for any player to play for their national team and to go to the World Cup so it must have been difficult for him to make this decision," reaffirmed Mancini.

"But it is difficult for me to speak about this whole situation.

"I have respect for Wayne and his family, so I don't want to say any more."

It hardly amounts to light relief but at least the Bridge issue has taken some of the glare off Mancini, who after an initial honeymoon period is now presiding over a sequence of results that are, if anything, worse than the ones that got Mark Hughes the sack just before Christmas.

Mancini has not been helped by various issues he cannot be held responsible for.

Carlos Tevez is set to play after spending two weeks in Argentina at the bedside of his baby daughter, who was born prematurely.

Yet the South American will not be able to team up with Emmanuel Adebayor, who is now suspended for City's next four games following his dismissal in Wednesday's FA Cup exit at Stoke.

"In the last two months I have had a lot of problems," said Mancini.

"I have never had all the players.

"Carlos had to go home, and Emmanuel has been playing very well but now he can't play for four games.

"If we had Emmanuel and Carlos together, the results would have been different."

Results though, have not been good.

With thoughts of a trophy gone for another year, City are now focussed on fourth spot.

But as they still have to face Tottenham, Aston Villa, Arsenal and Manchester United during a testing run-in, in addition to tomorrow's opponents, it will be tough to scramble up from their current fifth place.

However, after his time in Italy, it seems Mancini is impervious to pressure.

"I don't feel pressure," he said.

"I worked at Inter for four years. After that it is impossible for me to feel pressure.

"I am disappointed because I wanted to win a trophy this season.

"But now my focus is on fourth position - and we still have a good chance."

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