Eriksson starts to believe in City's European dream

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Sven Goran Eriksson is more confident Manchester City can secure a European berth this term than he was in August. City, who play Blackburn Rovers tonight, have enjoyed a phenomenal first half of the campaign and despite not winning away since the opening day, spent Christmas Day in a Champions League spot.

Few expect Eriksson's team to remain in such a lofty position and the Swede has been reluctant to offer any indication of the targets he will be setting. However, he does accept his team have performed far better than anyone imagined. And he is not entirely dismissing the possibility of City playing in the Champions League next season.

"It will be very difficult but you can always dream," he said. "So far, we have done very well and obviously, I am happy with our position. Maybe I am more confident of finishing in a European place than I was earlier in the season but the games we have coming up now are very important.

"And even after the big weekends right in front of us, it is very important that come March and April, we are still fit."

Eriksson's observations mean he will almost certainly rotate the squad throughout the Christmas programme. Midfielder Michael Johnson has been ruled out of tonight's home match with an abdominal strain, so Geovanni could replace Gelson Fernandes in central midfield while Stephen Ireland returns from a three-match ban.

Vedran Corluka and Javier Garrido are also primed to face a Rovers side who have won once in their last nine. Mark Hughes is without suspended duo Stephen Warnock and Robbie Savage, but centre-back Christopher Samba returns from a one-match ban.