Pearce insists City have the quality to avoid relegation

Stuart Pearce is confident that there is enough quality in the Manchester City squad to ensure the genuine prospect of relegation does not occur.

Pearce has been taking more responsibility within the City coaching team during Kevin Keegan's two-week absence, but will take a back seat again when the manager returns to the club's Carrington training ground today after recovering from his back problem.

After missing four successive draws, Keegan walks back into an unenviable situation, with City two points above third-from-bottom Leeds and in the thick of the fight for survival.

With Leeds visiting Arsenal tomorrow, Portsmouth entertaining Manchester United the following morning and Blackburn taking on fellow strugglers Leicester, Manchester City's encounter with Southampton this weekend represents an excellent opportunity to pull clear.

It may only take two wins from their last five games to secure their top-flight status, but with just two victories from their last 22 Premiership games, City's supporters are starting to fear a repeat of the ill-fated 1982-83 campaign in which their club was relegated even though they spent only 10 minutes of the entire season in the bottom three.

Unfortunately, they were the 10 minutes that mattered as Raddy Antic scored the famous goal for Luton at Maine Road that saw Luton survive at City's expense.

The chairman John Wardle has insisted that Manchester City have contingency plans should they drop into the First Division, but there is little doubt it would pile huge financial pressure on a club whose debts are thought to be approaching £60m.

But Pearce is adamant there is enough quality in the City squad to survive, providing the players retain their self-belief.

"We fully back the players who are here," Pearce said.

"We believe they have an abundance of quality and we just need to pick up the odd result to get away from the problems we are in.

"It's nervy at times at the bottom of the table when you are looking over your shoulder and you are one or two wins away from the relegation zone," he added. "But it's important we instill as much confidence as we can into the players and for the fans to get behind us."

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