Sven Goran Eriksson sat his prize midfielder Elano down for a long chat yesterday morning in an attempt to ensure that Derby's Robbie Savage does not get the same rewards from breathing down his neck tonight that his ex-Blackburn team-mate Gary Speed did on Sunday for Sheffield United.
Manchester City's trip to Pride Park is the team's last chance to revive their season before back-to-back encounters with Arsenal and Manchester United, and Eriksson was concerned that Speed's treatment of Elano in the cup tie at Sheffield United – combative to say the least – had so incensed the midfielder that he was withdrawn at half-time to avoid retaliation.
Eriksson believes his midfield talisman can learn to adapt – "he's a clever young man so he will stand up to it for sure," the Swede said yesterday – but this is an alien experience for the player. "It's different when he plays for the [Brazilian] national team [because] if you want to mark man-to-man there you have to mark a lot of them, with Kaka and Ronaldinho," said Eriksson.
City's manager does not think Elano has matched his initial heights since returning from international duty in October and he could do with him firing, since City's season is at risk of imploding. They have taken seven points from 18 in the league and Everton lie in wait after the big two.
The club seem to be heading for a deadline-day scramble to add physicality to the craft of Elano and Martin Petrov – the approach for CSKA Moscow's £14.8m-rated striker Joao had not yielded results by last night – and are finding it far easier to offload. Georgios Samaras became the latest striker to leave yesterday, joining Celtic on loan until the end of the season, with a view to the deal becoming permanent.
City have written to the FA to complain about referee Alan Wiley's failure to stop Sunday's cup tie and clear the balloons which prevented the side defending against the first goal. FA rules state that referees can stop games "at their own discretion" if there is any outside interference and City say fourth official Mark Clattenburg has told them that he raised the issue with Wiley, who should have acted.