Toure: City can win the title

Defender Kolo Toure believes Manchester City - at their best - should be unstoppable in the title race.

Manchester City

Toure has been concerned by City's recent blip, which has seen them knocked off the top of the Barclays Premier League and eliminated from the Europa League in the last five days.

Yet after falling 3-0 behind on aggregate, City produced a superb final half-hour against Sporting Lisbon at the Etihad Stadium yesterday to miss out on a place in the European quarter-finals only on away goals.

Toure now hopes that late flurry can generate some momentum as City, trailing Manchester United by a point, switch their full attention to the Premier League for their last 10 games of the season.

The Ivory Coast international said: "That showed we have the strength and some great quality in there.

"We just need to show that from the first minute. If we start like we played in that last 30 minutes, nobody can stop us.

"We need to put that in from the first minute - 100% until the end of the game with high concentration, that is the most important.

"The Premier League is still in our hands, we don't give up, we have to give all."

After losing the first leg against Sporting last week and then suffering defeat at the hands of Swansea, City appeared to be heading for crisis at half-time last night [Thursday].

Roberto Mancini's men trailed 2-0 after a frustrating and indisciplined opening 45 minutes in which Matias Fernandez and Ricky van Wolfswinkel struck.

Enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli was enduring one of his more combustible outings and argued with Mancini after conceding the free-kick which led to Fernandez's stunning opener.

But City, needing four goals to progress, were transformed in the second half and almost pulled off an unlikely comeback as Sergio Aguero struck twice and a refocused Balotelli converted a penalty.

Indeed it took a dramatic fingertip save from goalkeeper Rui Patricio from a header by opposite number Joe Hart in injury time to safeguard Sporting's progress.

Toure, 31, said: "It was unbelievable.

"We didn't give 100% in the first half but in the second half the manager shouted to us, told us to show a bit of fight. We did that.

"But that is the second time - when we played at Swansea the first half wasn't very good. That made us lose the game, definitely.

"I don't know why (it is), it is just the mentality.

"The season is very long and there is a lot of pressure - maybe it is that, but there is no excuse. We are footballers and we know that the season is going to be difficult.

"The most difficult time is now, because we are closer to the end of the season. The most important games are now."

United were also knocked out of Europe last night [Thursday], meaning both Manchester clubs will be free from cup distractions in the Premier League run-in.

That could prove beneficial for City, who host United on April 30, but Toure does not yet see elimination as a blessing.

He said: "No, not at all - you could see that in the second half. We pushed on and tried to score the goals.

"It was very unlucky, the header of Joe Hart was so close.

"It was so important for us to go through in this tournament. For City, any trophy is important, especially a European cup.

"It is always better to win games, when you win you have confidence. This is like a loss even though we won."

City could get a title lift from an unexpected source next week as controversial striker Carlos Tevez nears a first-team return.

It seemed Tevez had played his last game for City throughout his prolonged dispute with the club this season but he has now been back in training for a month.

Mancini has suggested he could come into contention for Wednesday's vital home clash with Chelsea and Toure is certainly ready to welcome him back.

Toure said: "That would be great to be honest. He has got a great record against Chelsea as well. It could be a great comeback for him.

"We all know Carlos, he is quality. I think he is going to be a big lift for us.

"For me he is a great player, his quality is still there. He can score goals.

"It will be great for us to have him, especially at this time.

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