With a faltering away record threatening to undermine their challenge for a first English title in 44 years, Manchester City's manager, Roberto Mancini, has opened the door wide to the prodigal son who is Carlos Tevez.
City go into today's game at Aston Villa with only one victory in their past six away games, against the bottom club Wigan. That run has included defeats at Chelsea, Everton and Sunderland, during which they scored only one goal despite abundant possession. It contrasts with home form that has brought 12 straight victories at an average of more than three goals per game.
Meanwhile Tevez remains with his family in Argentina, his representatives having failed to conclude a transfer during the January window. Carlo Ancelotti, the coach of the newly enriched Paris Saint-Germain, has admitted wanting him but says Tevez's wage demands priced him out of even the Qatari-backed French club's wage scale.
The stand-off with City is estimated to have cost him several million pounds in fines and unpaid wages after he refused to warm up during a Champions' League match away to Bayern Munich at the end of September. Having declared at the time that he was "finished" with the club, Mancini now says: "Everyone knows that Tevez is a top player and if he was here we would probably do better because Carlos can change a lot of games. But we haven't had him here and I don't know what's happened, maybe he can come back next week and he can help us in the last three months."
The club have registered him for the rest of the season and believe that a lack of fitness would not be a problem for long. "It depends on his condition now, whether it's good or not," Mancini said. "He hasn't played for four months but Carlos recovers strength very quickly."
Tevez has started only one of the side's 24 League games to date and although the leading scorer Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli (who is suspended today) have scored 36 goals between them, the manager says he would have used him in many of those games: "We played a lot of games with only one striker. Against Liverpool, United, that was the problem because Mario was injured and played only 20 minutes. There were other games where we only had two strikers and we did not have any change on the bench, another striker [or] another winger."
Mancini added: "Carlos knows the situation and I don't know what will happen next week, but if Carlos comes back we will talk. I don't have any problems."
The home record included a 4-1 demolition of Villa whose season has been described by their manager Alex McLeish as "a bit of a rollercoaster". The home form has tended to be the worst part of it, with only three wins in 12 games and disenchanted supporters, many of whom opposed McLeish's arrival from their closest rivals Birmingham City last summer, are planning a protest march today.
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