Mancini ready for Spurs 'final' after knockout blow floors Villa

Manchester City Aston Villa 1

Manchester City's Roberto Mancini described this game as a cup semi-final and Wednesday's meeting with Tottenham as a final. That could prove confusing, as unless Spurs win it, there will be one further crucial match for each side to play in order to resolve which of them comes fourth in the Premier League table.

City will still have to negotiate a trip to West Ham on Sunday, for one of those games like Liverpool's against Chelsea yesterday that provoke contrasting emotions among supporters of the team with least to play for; West Ham, thrilled at denying Tottenham a Champions League place four years ago by beating them on the final day of the season, will hardly be enthusiastic about easing their near-neighbours' passage by defeating City.

Even then, it is worth remembering, the team finishing highest will only have earned the right to play in a Champions League qualifying round and not the real thing. Such is the reputation of both clubs for shooting themselves in the foot, often when just about to lay hands on something worthwhile, that nothing should be taken for granted.

With that proviso, the cup analogy is nevertheless an interesting one in that finishing fourth in the table is now potentially worth more, in terms of both finance and prestige, than winning the FA Cup itself. While City's impressionable new owners would doubtless like to win a trophy of any sort, especially after a day out at Wembley, Mancini could tell them that the prospect of Champions League football next season is a far greater incentive for potential new recruits.

"If we want to be strong next year, we must buy good players," he said. Speculation persists that fourth place is a prerequisite if he wants to be the manager doing the buying, but the club have long insisted his continued employment is not dependent on joining Manchester United and the other European big boys next season.

Villa's Martin O'Neill will again only have the Europa League to offer as a recruiting tool following this defeat. A third successive finish in sixth place, while commendable enough, will enable him to tell his chairman, Randy Lerner, when they speak next week that further investment is necessary to move even one more step up the ladder. By that time his bargaining stance could also be enhanced by finding himself touted as a possible new manager of Liverpool.

"Manchester City will get very strong next season regardless, so it's a tough old battle," he said. Fielding an unchanged team for a sixth successive match was a tribute to consistency (and good luck with injuries), although O'Neill could argue that he would like stronger competition from the bench. There were certainly no game-changers there when he needed a couple with Villa 2-1 down in the second half. Worryingly for the England manager Fabio Capello's representative, Stuart Pearce, Emile Heskey once again made a late appearance to nothing like the effect achieved by John Carew, who had opened the scoring and then thundered a shot against the bar.

The second incident was, as O'Neill said, "a pivotal moment", coming just after Carlos Tevez had converted an undisputed penalty and just before Emmanuel Adebayor tapped in Adam Johnson's shrewd pass.

Once ahead, City were able to play Villa at their own game of counter- attack, denying them a single dangerous attempt in the second half and wrapping up the points just before full-time as Shaun Wright-Phillips' thrust down the left set up Craig Bellamy. In Johnson and Wright-Phillips (as well as the refusenik Wayne Bridge), City therefore had the more influential England candidates for Pearce to recommend than Villa's crop; the exception, as ever, being the industrious James Milner.

Bellamy's exuberant celebration with his manager enabled Mancini to reiterate that there was no problem between them. "Now we have a big chance and it is in our hands," he said of Wednesday's "cup final". With City, of course, there can always be many a slip twixt cup and lip.

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Fulop; Zabaleta, Touré, Dunne, Bridge; De Jong, Vieira; Johnson (wright-Phillips,78) Tevez (Richards,88), Bellamy; Adebayor. Substitutes not used Nielsen (gk), Onuoha, Santa Cruz, Garrido, Sylvinho.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Warnock (Delfouneso,74); A Young, Milner, Petrov, Downing; Agbonlahor, Carew (Heskey,74). Substitutes not used Guzan (gk), L Young, Sidwell, Reo-Coker, Beye.

Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Booked: Manchester City Kompany. Aston Villa Petrov.

Man of the match Vieira.

Attendance 47,102.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little