Mancini calls on City strikers to close gap on rival United

11 January 2013 12:47

Roberto Mancini has challenged Manchester City's strikers to start firing in order to close the seven-point gap on Premier League leaders Manchester United.

The reigning champions have not been as prolific in front of goal this season and are 15 goals behind their goals tally from the same stage last term, with 41 compared to 56, while their goal difference has also suffered.

With Robin van Persie in United's ranks, City's neighbours are looking a lot stronger in front of goal and the Italian wants his front men to start matching Alex Ferguson's charges -- starting at Arsenal on Sunday.

Carlos Tevez admitted this week that Mancini's praise of van Persie has spurred City's strikers to try to match the Dutchman and the City manager will continue to talk up his rivals' star man if it helps his team.

"Seven points is too much for me in this moment because I don't think we deserve to be seven points behind," said Mancini.

"Now we can do nothing, only start to win. Also we have a difficult game because we play against Arsenal, but the season is long and is very difficult. We have another 17 games. I think we can recover these points.

"I continue to talk about van Persie and other strikers. If we score two or three goals with our strikers because of that, then it is good.

"I hope we start to score with our strikers, this is very important for us. If (Edin) Dzeko, Carlos, Sergio (Aguero) and Mario (Balotelli) continue to score, I think we can change this.

"For every striker there are moments when you don't score. You don't know why, this is football. Last year we score a lot, maybe too much. We are missing 15 from last year, it is important that they score."

When questioned if he was worried about United's advantage at the top of the table, Mancini remained unruffled.

"No, we should go our way, we don't think about United," he said.

"We don't see the table in this moment. Maybe at the end of February we will look at it."

Mancini will have to do without Argentine striker Aguero for Sunday's visit to London as Mancini does not want to risk the frontman as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury.

"I hope he can play against Fulham next game," said the Italian.

"We can't take a risk with him now. If Arsenal was the last game (of the season), OK, but like this it is impossible."

The City manager also moved to deny speculation that Balotelli could be on his way to AC Milan.

Newspaper reports in England suggested on Friday that the Premier League champions would be willing to sell the Italy striker if the right offer came in after he had a training ground bust-up recently with his manager.

Balotelli played and scored in an under-21 game for City on Monday against Blackburn Rovers as he continues to seek match fitness after a spell out of the side.

"No, it is not true," said Mancini when asked about the link with AC Milan. "I am very, very happy with him.

"I hope this is a new start. He went with the under-21s because he needed a game. He played one game and he played well. I hope this year will be different."

Sunday's game will also be City's first without brothers Yaya and Kolo Toure, who are on Africa Cup of Nations duty with the Ivory Coast.

Source: AFP