Mancini happy to be in title fight

Roberto Mancini has expressed his pride at Manchester City's performances this season whether they end the campaign as Premier League champions or not.

The Argentinians tore Norwich apart...

City's crucial victory over Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium on Monday leaves them just two wins away from their first championship since 1968.

Yet, the fact the first obstacle is a trip to in-form Newcastle on Sunday just emphasises how much work the Blues still have ahead of them.

It also explains why Mancini has continually stressed that United remain favourites, even though the Blues have now knocked them off top spot.

No matter how the next 180 minutes pan out, Mancini believes his players have good cause to be satisfied with their efforts, especially considering they were eight points adrift of the Red Devils just four games ago.

"I am happy that we are here and we have this chance after being eight points behind United," he said.

"This is very important because now we have a big chance.

"In the end, nothing has changed.

"We still have two games to go and in football anything can happen. You can lose or win. But the guys have worked really well and I am proud of this."

Presumably Mancini, with the ultimate prize so close, will not be expecting his players' focus to be drifting to what happens when the season is over.

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He did though seem a bit confused in his answer when quizzed about the subject.

"Now, yes (the title is more important than the beach). In two weeks, no," he said.

"We have an important game. The players know that they have everything in their hands."

Their quest this weekend is winning on Tyneside.

It is a task they have completed successfully on three of their last four visits, drawing the other one.

None of those results was achieved against a Newcastle side competing to qualify for the Champions League though.

And certainly, none of them were achieved against a team containing a striker as lethal as Papiss Cisse presently is.

The Senegal forward took his tally to 13 goals in 12 games for the Magpies with his sensational double at Chelsea on Wednesday, which kept Alan Pardew's men level on points with Tottenham in the battle for fourth spot.

"Any player can improve a lot in every year," said Mancini.

"Maybe Cisse has found a good squad, that plays football very well. It is another situation for him and another type of football. Maybe that is better.

"It is always difficult for someone who arrived in January.

"But he has scored 13 goals. However, even at Freiburg he played very well, even if he didn't score quite so many."

Although Mancini's team have clawed back the gap to United, he accepts the hard work is not over.

Indeed, he is convinced Sunday's game will be harder than this week's encounter with United, when they prevented their opponents from having a single shot on target.

"Against United we played at home and we played very well," said Mancini.

"Against Newcastle it will be harder."



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