Promised land beckons for City – but the battle will be staying there

Mancini fears limited funds this summer will make fighting on two fronts tricky next term

So here come Tottenham Hotspur, heading up the Ashton New Road to put a spoke in Manchester City wheels, just as they seem to have done at all the most inopportune moments across the course of the last 35 trophy-less years. It was Ricardo Villa's high jinks at Wembley in the FA Cup final 30 years ago, Peter Crouch's header at Eastlands, depriving City of Champions league football 12 months ago, and no one has leered at City's wealth quite like Harry Redknapp, a more unwelcome manager in east Manchester than any you are likely to find. The pressure he exerted yesterday by claiming to know City's big-spending plans belonged to a mischief-making which began when he claimed two years ago that City had blackmailed him into giving up his pursuit of Craig Bellamy.

Tottenham's potential to damage City is more limited this time. The small number of points Roberto Mancini needs to guarantee progression into the Champions League, which has been Abu Dhabi's obsession since they bought City 982 days ago, means that tonight's encounter will be a little less anxious than last spring's. But the conclusion of Tottenham's season does hold a mirror up to the anxiety which Roberto Mancini carries with him into the promised land of Europe's leading club competition.

At a time when the word "budget" has formed a serious part of the City lexicon for the first time since Sheikh Mansour's arrival, Mancini has looked at the way that Spurs' squad has proved so incapable of combining a colourful Champions League campaign with a powerful push for a Premier League top-four place and is understood to be wondering whether that might be City's problem next season. While those continental exploits of Redknapp's will obscure the fact that a £200m squad has failed to maintain a place in the elite, Abu Dhabi might not view such an outcome so benignly – even if there is a delightful progression to the knock-out stages to look back on. Phase one of the City project involved high spend to reach the big league. Phase two involves staying in it. There's no going back.

It is the strength of the substitutes' benches commanded by Sir Alex Ferguson – the manager who looked at Redknapp's squad last autumn and predicted that waging a campaign on two fronts would be too much for the club – which dazzles Mancini. "United played eight or nine different players [against Schalke] from the side that will play against Chelsea," he declared only last week. "If you want to win you want to win like this." But when Mancini looks at his own bench, he wonders how his club will cope.

His chief executive, Garry Cook, was at Udinese at the weekend, watching the Chilean right-sided forward Alexis Sanchez, whose signing City want to tie up early. Bolton's Gary Cahill and Edinson Cavani, the Napoli striker who has scored 26 goals in 35 games on loan from Palermo, may feature on the list, too. But the conclusion of phase one happens to coincide with an end to the days of wine and roses. Uefa's drive towards Financial Fair Play is upon the club, and the European governing body's head of club licensing, Andrea Traverso, wants to begin shadowing the club and others from this autumn to help the drive towards reducing losses of £133m to no more than £13m a year from 2013. Mancini is back in the real world, needing his club to convert loan deals for Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz and Craig Bellamy and to sell Jo, Shaun Wright-Phillips and others, to deliver him some income.

Expect this to make for a more strained environment than last summer, when City were barely out of their league campaign when the pursuit of James Milner began, leading to huge pre-season expectation, including a beaming Mancini declaring that there might be a tattoo on his left leg after City won this season's title, to go with the pipe-smoking sailor on his right which reveals his immutable passion for Sampdoria. It will be for Cook to press home the significance of the word "budget" – testing a relationship which is not always the most comfortable, between two quite different characters.

The pressure points may come if Mancini finds that shipping out players is difficult. City were delighted at the loan deal which took Adebayor to Real Madrid because it included a £14.5m option to buy, but the prospects of the striker remaining in Madrid are next to zero after his dismal displays in the clasicos (four bookings, no goals). City need to lose his £165,000 a week salary. Their refusal to do loan business in January with clubs who would not agree to an option to buy in the summer revealed the importance of selling this summer and is why Wright-Phillips is not currently working at Fulham or Bolton Wanderers.

The restraint, taken with the figures being quoted for Sanchez (£30m) and Cavani (£20m) reveal why City will not countenance releasing Carlos Tevez, whom Mancini expects to be involved in some way tonight as a precursor to an FA Cup final appearance against Stoke City, for less than £50m. Yesterday, Nigel de Jong declared tonight's game to be the most significant since his appearance for the Netherlands in the World Cup final. "You just have to take the experiences with you and make sure you go for it," he insisted. "Everything is in our hands." But the same can't be said for Mancini this summer.

It was Redknapp who suggested, after the goalless draw with City in the Premier League's first fixture of the season, that City had too many players. "I'd hate to have another striker – I wouldn't care who it was. What would you do with five?" he reflected. But as Mancini peers towards the elite, he is finding it hard to accept that less is more.

Who's on Manchester City's shopping list? three players who could be heading to Eastlands

Alexis Sanchez, Udinese
* Age 22
* Position Striker
* Country Chile
* Caps 36
* Goals 12
* Recent injury trouble has been the only blemish on an impressive season in Northern Italy. 'The Wonder Boy' made his international debut at just 17 and impressed at last summer's World Cup.

Edinson Cavani, Napoli
* Age 24
* Position Striker
* Country Uruguay
* Caps 25
* Goals 9
* The versatile forward has been linked with a number of Europe's leading sides and impressed with a recent hat-trick against Lazio. "El Matador" also scored against Germany at last year's World Cup.

Gary Cahill, Bolton Wanderers
* Age 25
* Position Defender
* Country England
* Caps 3
* Goals 0
* The former Aston Villa trainee, who joined Bolton for £5m, has missed only two league games this season and made his England debut last September. He is a commanding centre-back and has interested Arsenal and Spurs.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Life and Style
A general view during the 2014 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at Earl's Court exhibition centre on 2 December, 2014 in London, England
fashionIt's not all about the catwalks: the big changes of the past year can be summed up in six clothing items
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?