Mancini ready to face his biggest critic

MANCHESTER - Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has a striker conundrum to solve before the club make their Champions League debut on Wednesday and if he gets it wrong he will have his dad to answer to.

The Italian said the man who has been his biggest critic and fan would be at the Group A opener against Napoli when wealthy City will be hoping to translate sizzling domestic form into evidence they can challenge for Europe's top club honour.

"When I played he was criticising me every time but this is important because if your father says these things then it's true and for me it is important to improve always," Mancini told a news conference on Tuesday.

City have made a storming start to the Premier League season, winning all four games and scoring 15 goals on the way. They were even able to drop striker Edin Dzeko at the weekend despite him having scored four goals in the previous game.

Dzeko was not missed as Sergio Aguero netted a hat-trick against Wigan Athletic to make it six goals in four games.

Such is the depth of talent at City thanks to the owners who have spent more than 600 million pounds building a squad, that Mancini frequently has a bench worth more than some smaller teams' starting XI.

That could well be where last season's golden boy Carlos Tevez finds himself on Wednesday as having missed a penalty against Wigan he may make way for Dzeko and Aguero to start.

While he would never say it, the fact that Mario Balotelli is suspended for the next three European games does at least narrow down his choice of strikers to three for two spots.

He saw the funny side of his luxury position, laughing when asked if the fact that Aguero had scored three goals at the weekend meant that he would now be dropped.

"We decide tomorrow after the last training session what we'll do," he said. "But I think if you have three strikers like Carlos, Edin or Sergio I think that it is difficult to make mistakes."

'SPECIAL MOMENT'

It is players like those three, who have all played in the Champions League before, that Mancini points to as one of the reasons why City will handle their debut well.

"We have players with a lot of experience, a lot of our players have played in the Champions League, I don't think we can have pressure for this game," he said.

"I think this is normal for us because now Manchester City is one of the best teams in England and Europe I hope, for us it will be very important to do very well our job in this group and our target is to go into second stage."

Indeed, the only real evidence that City were not old hands in Europe's elite club competition was the marquee erected at the club's Carrington training ground that served as a news conference room as the regular one was too small.

As Mancini glanced nervously at the billowing roof as the structure creaked from the winds, the only other issue of concern was the tough group City have been drawn in with Bayern Munich and Villarreal the other two clubs.

"Four teams can win the group," said Mancini, who was delighted to be coaching in the Champions League for the first time since 2008 and that his return was coming against team from his homeland.

"It's a special moment," he said.

Midfielders Gareth Barry, who has an ankle injury, and James Milner, who had a clash of heads against Wigan, will have late fitness tests before the game.


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