Manchester City have been asked by the Greater Manchester Police not to inflame Saturday's Old Trafford derby by allowing Carlos Tevez to repeat the kind of incendiary comments which dominated the build-up to last year's Carling Cup semi-final second leg.
Tevez's discussion of the game will be limited to an interview screened yesterday on the City website. Tevez did not discuss United and declared his commitment to City against "people [who] might want to have a pop at me". The interview was far removed from the one he gave in Argentina last Janury when, ahead of the Old Trafford second leg, he accused his former United team-mate Gary Neville of being a "boot-licking moron" after their confrontation during the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final, from which United progressed to lift the trophy.
The force asked both clubs last season to speak to their players as on-field acrimony, which started when Neville suggested that Sir Alex Ferguson had been right to let Tevez go to City, boiled over. The significance of Saturday's lunchtime fixture is just as great with United only five points ahead. The police are also asking licensees to restrict the amount of alcohol being supplied near the stadium in the hope that violence will be averted. The force will arrest anyone arriving at the stadium under the influence of alcohol and are planning extra patrols.
It is unclear whether Tevez will stay at Eastlands beyond the summer, having been left with no option but to withdraw his transfer request in December, after he was told he would not be allowed to hold the club to ransom. It was thought he was unhappy with the timing of an interview on City's website in which, 24 hours after news of his transfer request broke, he pledged his commitment to the club. But yesterday, he reiterated that commitment. "It is a period in my career where I have begun to enjoy things more. I am happy and very relaxed as a result of the football I am producing," he said. "We are right in there battling it out for a Champions League place. That is what the team is aiming for and where the team ought to be."
Roberto Mancini is hoping Mario Balotelli (above) will also be fit for the bench at least and the 20-year-old has been putting in extra training in the hope that muscles around his damaged left knee will be strengthened enough for him to play a part. Balotelli's comment that Wayne Rooney "is not the best striker in Manchester" will make his involvement in the game another potentially combustible one.
Shaun Wright-Phillips could step in to replace the injured Adam Johnson. Wright-Phillips looked bright and energetic during a late cameo appearance against West Bromwich on Saturday and coach David Platt said: "He could be that player." Only two weeks ago Wright Phillips put in a transfer request but no club was willing to guarantee to buy him at the end of the season following a loan period.