Wayne Bridge is not yet ready to commit to England's World Cup plans in the wake of the John Terry affair.
Ashley Cole's broken ankle - which may yet force him out of the tournament this summer - has left Bridge as the senior left back available to Fabio Capello. But Bridge is still undecided over whether he is prepared to return to an England set-up including Terry, the former Chelsea team-mate who betrayed him with his ex-girlfriend Vanessa Perroncel.
If Bridge did agree to take his place in the England fold, he would almost certainly line up next to Terry as part of Capello's back four. But Bridge has told friends he needs more time to make what is likely to be the most important decision of his football career.
Deal! Mancini has urged Bridge to make himself available for Capello's squad
He must make his mind up by the end of this month, when Capellonames his squad for the March 3 friendly against Egypt. Capello willtell Bridge that if he turns down the offer of a place in the squad forthe Egypt game, it will be very difficult for the England manager topick him again. him to get back into the side in future.
Roberto Mancini, Bridge's manager at Manchester City, yesterday toldhis player not to pass up the opportunity to play in South Africa.'What is important is the national team, but I won't speak to Wayneabout it,' said Mancini.
'Wayne is a good man and all that is important is that he recoversto play for City and the national team. 'For England, Cole is aproblem. But they have a good player here in Bridge. He can play inthis position in the national team. He never told me that he doesn'twant to play with Terry.'
Mending Bridges: Capello wants the Man City full-back to join him in South Africa this summer
Asked if he thought Bridge was committed to playing for England,Mancini replied: 'Absolutely. Playing in the World Cup is important forall players.
'Wayne was out for a month with a knee injury. Although that is abig problem for a player, he is getting fitter. But after five or sixgames he will be 100 per cent.'
Capello is due to name his squad on the same weekend Bridge andTerry are set to share a pitch for the first time since the scandal,when City travel to Stamford Bridge two weeks today.
Mancini hopes an FA Cup run-out against Stoke will aid Bridge in hisbattle to regain full fitness. Stoke's physical style will challengethe defender and one current member of Tony Pulis's side admittedyesterday they were a team he used to hate playing against.
Stoke centre half Robert Huth said: 'I hated playing Stoke when Iwas at Middlesbrough for the obvious reasons. They were a fit, strongteam that didn't give you anything. I didn't like it but being part ofit is good. Now if teams have to play us they know they'll find ithard. That is what we will ensure City face.'
Huth expects Carlos Tevez to give him his toughest test of theseason. He added: 'Tevez works hard and makes you work hard as well. Hedoesn't give you any freedom to play. I wouldn't say he was a pest. Heis everything you expect of a Premier League player. I would bedisappointed if he lets me have the ball.'
Carlo Ancelotti warns John Terry, Ashley Cole and fellow Chelsea stars over private livesPICTURED: Terry plays the family man as he reunites with wife in DubaiBridge can play with love rival Terry at World Cup, says Man City boss ManciniMANCHESTER CITY FC