Boyata surprised by City call-up
When Dedryck Boyata first looked at the Manchester City team list for Saturrday's clash with Chelsea, he thought he was not in it. As it turned out, the 19-year-old was one of the key men in City's excellent 1-0 victory, which ended the Londoners' 100% start to the season and kept them in contention for the Premier League title Roberto Mancini continues to insist is bound for Stamford Bridge. That Boyata was able to look back in triumph was remarkable in two respects. When Mancini was splashing out in excess of £100million on new players this summer, it was hard to imagine he could be left scratching around for players at such an early stage of the season. And, for Boyata at least, it was an appearance he never expected to make. "I didn't expect to play," he said. "Usually in the week we train with the starting XI and I was not in it. "Then when I glanced up at the board to see who was in the actual side, I only saw the first two letters 'BO' and assumed Jerome Boateng was playing. "It was only when it was actually read out that I realised it was me. "I was quite shocked. I thought 'wow, it's me' but I had to stay focused because I knew how hard this game was going to be." Having starred in City's first-leg win over Manchester United in last season's Carling Cup semi-final, Boyata is not exactly unused to the big occasion. But coping with an attacking line-up containing Didier Drogba, on a side of the pitch where Florent Malouda and Ashley Cole were intent on causing mayhem, was a different task entirely. "I have seen those Chelsea guys on TV so often," said the Belgian. "They are such great players. But I also had a job to do, so I tackled hard when I had to. "It was great to play against people like Anelka and Drogba and I have to thank the coach for giving me the chance to play against them." The question for Mancini is how many of his side does he put into service against Juventus on Thursday. National pride will ensure he does not want to lose that one. However, having moved to within four points of Chelsea, he will not want to lose the momentum by failing to beat Newcastle next weekend. Mancini's attitude towards the championship battle is an interesting one. He surprised some club officials on Friday with the clarity of his view that Chelsea would emerge victorious. It is not an attitude you would expect of Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, which hints at a belief from Mancini that his side are not quite good enough yet to contend at the very top. Yet the manner with which they neutralised a team that had scored 21 goals in their opening five games of the season, with Vincent Kompany totally dominating Drogba to the extent Carlo Ancelotti replaced the Ivorian 15 minutes from time, suggested a far more concerted challenge than Mancini is prepared to concede. "We deserved to beat them," he said. "Our four defenders played like brothers. They were very compact and very strong on every ball against Malouda and Drogba. That is not easy. "But I don't know if it keeps us in the title race. It is impossible for them to win every game. "We have another 32 games to go, so we must work and improve every week. This win will help us to do that." Consistency is going to be the key. After all, at the side of victories against Liverpool and Chelsea must go an away defeat at Sunderland and the home draw with Blackburn, during which Nikola Kalinic scored the only goal in open play that City have conceded this season. "We have good players," said Mancini. "They are not normal players. "But against Blackburn we drew in a match where we deserved to score three or four goals." Mancini confirmed David Silva should be available for Thursday's encounter with Juventus after limping off with a minor knee injury, while Jerome Boateng might also come into contention after making his debut as a late substitute.
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