Early Doors

Mixed bag must play City back into form

Early Doors

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Roberto Mancini is at it again.

On the eve of the new season the Manchester City manager claimed that local rivals United were favourites for the title despite his team being champions.

Then he said he did not need many new signings in the summer transfer window — just "three, four, five players". Now, after making those five desired signings on deadline day, he is attributing his team's patchy form to them.

Never mind that they started the season with a narrow 3-2 home win against newly-promoted Southampton, or that it took a late gift-wrapped goal from Martin Skrtel to secure a draw at Liverpool — according to Mancini it is only since the summer transfer window closed that City have had problems.

Speaking after City's 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Sunday, Mancini said: "We had new players only in the last two or three days of the market and maybe these players don't know their team-mates well and need time."

Perhaps he is right, but then he is the guy who started with three of those new players — Javi Garcia, Maicon and Matija Nastasic — in their first Champions League group game at Real Madrid last week.

Not that there is any shame in losing 3-2 at the Bernabeu, of course, but when combined with a 1-1 draw at Stoke before the trip to Madrid and a share of the points with the Gunners after it all adds up to an unsatisfactory 10 days for the champions of England.

Mancini added: "The second year after winning a championship is always difficult and I hope we start to win in our next league game, because we need a win. But we need to improve if we are to do that."

City have a great chance to get back to winning ways this evening when they host Aston Villa in the third round of the Capital One Cup. It may be a competition for which the naming rights have changed hands more times than the Olympic flame (Early Doors is nothing if not topical), but it is the only domestic trophy City have not won since Mancini took over almost three years ago.

Their cause may not be helped by the match against Villa being scheduled for little more than 48 hours after the Arsenal match finished. However, with Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli only substitutes for that match, both can expect to start tonight against a team City haven't lost to at home since Georgios Samaras and Emile Mpenza led the line for them in the pre-Sven days.

In fact, Mancini is likely to change his whole starting XI for the Villa game, giving centre-back Joleon Lescott and plenty of other first-teamers a night off.

It's a quick turn-around but we have such depth in the squad I'm sure there'll be changes," Lescott said. "Whatever team the manager puts out will be a strong one, so I'm sure we can have a go at it.

"We'd definitely like to win it. We'd take anything, any trophy. When you get to the latter stages of this competition it's up there with anything."

You can't doubt Lescott's sincerity, but when he also said in the same interview as he goes in search of a new contract that "a few years ago I was playing at Plymouth on Tuesday nights, now Tuesday nights mean Champions League" you get the feeling he's happy to sit this one out even if it is against the team he supported as a boy.

Javi Garcia played on Sunday and Maicon is injured, but fellow deadline-day arrivals Scott Sinclair and Nastasic are both set to feature alongside youngsters like Denis Suarez, Abdul Razak and Luca Scapuzzi. It will be a bit of a mixed bag, but this team will have the chance to play city back into form while giving the others a week-long break.

With just an away trip to Fulham to come between now and what is already a crucial Champions League game at Borussia Dortmund next Wednesday, tonight's game won't be the most effective for the new boys getting to know their team-mates but it could at least get them a step closer to a fresh bit of silverware.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I am not the kind of guy who reads the papers or goes on to the internet. But when I hear people say Patrice never had someone to fight him for his place I think they have bad memories. They forget very quickly how I got to become Manchester United's left-back. I fought with two great players in Gabriel Heinze and Mikael Silvestre. Football is like a pyramid. It is easy to reach the top of the pyramid but to stay there is the hardest part. It is too easy for people to say that now we have bought another left back Patrice Evra will have to fight for his place. Patrice Evra has always fought for his place." — Yes, Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra really did call Mikael Silvestre a great player.

FOREIGN VIEW: "When I first started watching soccer, going to Europe for the first time, he was the one who was the most dynamic to me. I loved the way he played. He played with a lot of style, he was good and he had the different hairstyles. His hair was pretty." — Who's this expressing his admiration for former Brazil striker Ronaldo? Why, Snoop Dogg, of course.

COMING UP: Updates from every one of this evening's Capital One Cup third-round matches — including Manchester City v Aston Villa and Chelsea v Wolves — kicks off at 19:45 this evening, as does live coverage of Fiorentina v Juventus.

Before that, you can see our round-up of last weekend's funniest moments in the Premier League in Hot Or Not and assess the biggest refereeing controversies with The Whistleblower, plus Paul Parker and James Horncastle will be filing their latest blogs.

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