Santa Cruz backs City to make immediate challenge for title

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The Independent Football

He has spent just 10 minutes on the pitch as a Manchester City player but what Roque Santa Cruz has seen from the sidelines has been enough to convince the striker that they could win the Premier League this season.

His manager, Mark Hughes, has resolutely dampened down any talk that City might break into the Champions League in May, let alone win a first title since 1968. However, those who have seen his side win five of their opening six games and score three times at Old Trafford in the other are rather more confident.

Asked if the championship was possible this season, Santa Cruz replied: "We are not only looking for that to happen in the future, we are looking to do it now. The team showed great character against West Ham [on Monday] doing its job in a fantastic manner. It is happening already. We came here to get the team into the top places."

When the Paraguayan accepted the offer from Hughes, who took him from Bayern Munich to Blackburn in the summer of 2007, to rejoin him at City, he knew he would be exchanging guaranteed football at Ewood Park for the reality of squad rotation at Eastlands.

However, he probably did not anticipate just how many high-quality forwards City would be able to put on to the field. The combination of Carlos Tevez, Santa Cruz, Emmanuel Adebayor and Craig Bellamy cost £77m and is probably a stronger line-up than any other Premier League manager could call upon.

"Every player will need to push himself to the maximum of his ability because there are a lot of people on the bench who are keen to get in." Santa Cruz said. "Here at Manchester City, because of the players and the facilities we have, we have a great opportunity to show what we can do."

Tevez's opening two Premier League goals for City may have been aided by some dreadful West Ham defending but they served as a clear statement of intent. "Everybody knows the type of player he is," Santa Cruz added. "It was no surprise to see him scoring twice against West Ham. Because he and I speak Spanish we are closer than some members of the team. Carlos knows he will be sitting on the bench during some games and he has to be ready for that."