Ghosts of Christmas past will stalk Manchester City for as long as they fail to lift silverware. One of them is Robinho, who claimed yesterday that while he was a City player he had talked his compatriot Kaka out of signing two years ago.
"I told him what it was like to live in Manchester; that it is cold, it always rains and offers little," the Milan player said. He also said he had had discussions with Mario Balotelli, to whom Milan have made eyes. "I do not think [he will stay long in Manchester]," Robinho said of the 20-year-old.
Maintaining Balotelli's interest beyond his first season may prove challenging if City are not in the Champions League next season, though manager Roberto Mancini can put such concerns to the back of his mind with his side comfortably within the top four ahead of Aston Villa's arrival this afternoon. Balotelli may feature from the start.
The match could give City a chance to resolve their patchy home form. "We have found it hard at home because teams have come and sat deep and made it difficult for us," Gareth Barry said yesterday.
Kolo Touré will return from a one-match ban, though may not be recalled as Joleon Lescott performed well against Newcastle on Boxing Day. City know a win would see them, for a few hours at least, leapfrog neighbours United, who have an evening kick-off.
Roberto Mancini's positive comments about Newcastle's Andy Carroll after the 3-1 win were a response to a question, rather than a declaration of his intent to pursue the player. City need to sign a Champions League-calibre striker, which is why Wolfsburg's Edin Dzeko is a January target.