If Manchester City do not get into that fourth Champions League qualification spot at the end of the season, manager Roberto Mancini is expected to get the sack. However, he may well be trying to save City the job of telling him to clear his desk after admitting a desire to return to manage in Italy, with Juventus his favoured destination.
The former Internazionale manager was first linked a month ago with Juventus, who have won just four of their 10 Serie A games played under manager Alberto Zaccheroni after the sacking of Ciro Ferrara in January. Mancini (right) dismissed the initial speculation but there is little doubt that he is now given the idea of returning to his homeland some serious thought.
"I'm ready to go back, if and when there will be a possibility," he is quoted as saying in Italian newspaper La Nazione. "As for Juventus – Juve is always Juve. They are going through a difficult period right now but we are talking about a club with history and prestige, made up of many victories.
"How near I am to a return to Italy I don't know," he added. "Football is strange. It was probably right for me to broaden my horizons, but I will return sooner or later."
City face relegation threatened Burnley at Turf Moor at tea-time looking to close the two-point gap to Tottenham in fourth. However, Mancini has told the club's fans to forget any lingering hopes they may have of seeing Patrick Vieira in full flight this season. The City manager delivered a swift answer at his media briefing about whether the Premier League will ever again witness the same Vieira who produced nine years of exemplary service at Arsenal before joining Juventus in 2005.
"Probably not," was Mancini's sharp response, appearing to confirm the suspicions of many of those who have watched Vieira play since he joined City on a six-month deal from Internazionale in January.
The midfielder was not able to play until the beginning of February due to a calf injury suffered in his final game for Inter and then had to serve a three-match suspension following an off-the -ball incident with Glenn Whelan during a Premier League game at Stoke that escaped the attention of referee Alan Wiley.
It would be churlish to suggest Vieira is a spent force , but he is clearly not the same player who helped Arsenal to three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.
"When he arrived here he had an injury," Mancini added in defence of a player he got to know during his time at Inter. "Then three or four games where he could not play, and he needs more games. Probably he needs to play most games. He could still be an important player."
The Frenchman is becoming a gamble City can barely afford to take, although Mancini still seems keen to roll the dice, particularly because Nigel de Jong and Pablo Zabaleta are just a single yellow card away from suspension.
"I think Patrick could improve," he added. "Against Wigan [in the 3-0 win at Eastlands on Monday] he was better but he was only so-so towards the end of the game, but this is normal because he needs to play more often. He needs more games. He needs only to play, always maybe.
"We have another problem because if Nigel gets another yellow card we lose him for two games, and now Zabaleta is in the same situation.
"I know Patrick very well and I'm happy with him. Before the injury he was playing better but I think he can prove himself again in the next game."Reuse content