Richards urges team to push for third


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The Independent Football

Manchester City's Micah Richards has served a reminder that his side could avoid a potential Champions League qualifying round tie with Bayern Munich by capitalising on Arsenal's slump in form and accelerating into third place in the Premier League by beating Stoke City tonight.

City's manager, Roberto Mancini, had all but given up on third after the defeat at Everton 10 days ago. However, Arsenal's loss to Aston Villa – their third defeat in four games – means City could move a point ahead of them by repeating their FA Cup final victory over Tony Pulis's side at Eastlands, with only Sunday's final round of games to come. "Getting third place is still important to us because there's the chance we could get the likes of Bayern Munich in the qualifiers if we finish fourth," Richards said yesterday.

Gareth Barry said City had been mindful of tonight's game, even while celebrating at Wembley. "We had to watch the celebrations a bit because of the game," he said. "And we all had an eye on the Arsenal-Villa game, to see whether there was any chance we could get third. It'll be a strange feeling for both teams at this stage in the season having just played in a Cup final. But there might be an opportunity for us getting third place so we'll be out to win the game. It's been an unbelievable week. This club and its fans have waited so long for a trophy. So to get to the Champions League and then the FA Cup is a perfect week, so we're really enjoying it. I've played at Wembley a lot but the last two times with City have been unbelievable."

Stoke's loan signing John Carew has ruled out returning to Villa, where his falling-out with their manager, Gérard Houllier, appears to have brought down the curtain on a four-year career there. The 31-year-old seems to feel a permanent move to the Potteries would be welcome. "I think that was a fantastic period of my life [at Villa]," Carew said. "The fans, I have a fantastic relationship with them, there will always be a place in my heart, I love the club immensely, but my time there is finished. I will come and watch them as a fan, but not as a player any more.

"Already at the beginning of the season, this was going to be my last season. When Houllier came it was even more clear. Signing a new contract at Villa was never in my mind. I haven't spoken with them, I haven't told Aston Villa yet, no. When the season is done we will speak."