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Page last updated at 06:19 GMT, Saturday, 26 December 2009

Mancini prepares for Man City bow

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Mancini settling into Manchester life

New Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini says he cannot wait to make his managerial debut in the Premier League against Stoke on Saturday.

The Italian will take centre stage on Boxing Day, when City's home game against Stoke is among eight Premier League fixtures.

"I am very excited. I hope for the supporters it will be a good day and I hope to win for them," he said.

"Stoke are a good, physical team - typically English. It is a hard match."

Mancini was named City boss last Saturday, but his arrival was overshadowed by the furore over the handling of predecessor Mark Hughes' sacking.

That led to reports claiming several players were unhappy about Hughes' treatment, but Mancini says he has been pleased with their attitude in training.

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"I thought the players trained very well. I think I have a good team and we have only one problem and that is many players injured," said the Italian.

"I have a good relationship with the players. I appreciate some players are close to Mark but that is a good thing for a manager."

He went on to joke: "When I go away from Manchester City in 15 years after five Premier League titles and four cups the players will have the same situation with me."

And Mancini believes he can get the best out of Brazilian Robinho, who has struggled to live up to his star billing, especially away from home.

"We want to change this situation because we believe Robinho is a good player," said Mancini. "I think he will play well also away because he is a top player. When you are a top player you must play well home and away."

Victory for City is vital if they are to keep pace with the top five, and they could even make up ground with fifth-placed Tottenham facing what looks like a difficult trip to fellow Londoners Fulham.

Leaders Chelsea also have a tricky-looking away game at Birmingham, who have won five of their last six matches.

By contrast, the Blues, who have a four-point lead at the top, have managed only one win in six league and cup games.

It will be the last time manager Carlo Ancelotti can call on Ivory Coast strikers Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou before they fly off to the African Cup of Nations, but French striker Nicolas Anelka is injured.

"Above all, it's difficult to play up there. They put a lot of pressure on, and we'll have to pay attention," warned the Chelsea boss.

Elsewhere, struggling Liverpool host Wolves, with boss Rafa Benitez hopeful that a midweek pep-talk may spark a turnaround in his side's fortunes.

"I have spoken to several players, not just Gerrard and Torres," said Benitez, whose Liverpool side lie eight points adrift of the top four.

"They are all determined to do well, but when we concede a goal now we lose any confidence that we have acquired.

"That is my responsibility, to improve confidence. To do that I have to be positive, it is the only way. The message is very clear, we have quality in our squad and we must show that.

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola
West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola has been in charge for 15 months

"We can win a run of games in a row, we have done that with these same players. That is the positive thought we must retain."

The Reds will be without the suspended Javier Mascherano, but Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres are in the squad.

At the other end of the table, West Ham host Portsmouth in a clash of the Premier League's bottom two.

Pompey remain bottom despite their impressive win over Liverpool, while the Hammers also come into the match on the back of an encouraging result - a draw against Chelsea.

"We need to get a result and it has to be three points because they are close to us," said West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola.

"It is a six-pointer and will be a big occasion to put some distance between us and them.

"Portsmouth have been playing well recently. They seem to have found their way but we have found our way as well.

"There's a very, very good atmosphere right now and I think the Chelsea game has lifted everybody up."

A draw would probably suit the other strugglers, notably third-from-bottom Bolton who face the daunting trip to home specialists Burnley.

Burnley, who have won 18 of their 19 points this season at Turf Moor where the pitch is playable, have hired a JCB in the lead-up to the game to help clear away the snow and ice in the areas surrounding the stadium.

"I can't see any reason why, in this day and age, if you've got six days to prepare for a game that it doesn't go ahead," said Megson, whose Bolton side had their game at Wigan postponed on Monday.

"We want to play Burnley, and Burnley will want to play us, I can guarantee that."

Everton, who are only two points above the relegation zone, travel to Sunderland on Saturday, with David Moyes admitting his side "are too near the trap-door for comfort".

"Our form has improved, the points tally has not, but draws against Spurs and Chelsea have certainly lifted the confidence, and we played well enough to have beaten Birmingham who are on a good run at the moment," said the Toffees boss.

Things can change very quickly over Christmas, with a couple of games in quick succession, and we want to make that happen

Everton boss David Moyes

"Things can change very quickly over Christmas, with a couple of games in quick succession, and we want to make that happen.

"But I don't want anyone saying we should not be where we are. We cannot say the current position is not a true reflection on our season."

Wigan, level on points with Everton, host Blackburn at the DW Stadium.

Boss Roberto Martinez is hopeful the game will go ahead after the postponement of Monday's encounter with Bolton.

"We all hope the weather is going to ease off and are confident the game will go ahead," he said.

"It is very frustrating when you get a postponement especially after our last three games when we did not get the points our performances deserved.

"But it was the right decision as the safety of our fans was the big issue.

"Now we are desperate to get on the pitch and play another home game."



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see also
Lawro's predictions
27 Dec 09 |  Football
Hughes axe leaves Ferguson fuming
24 Dec 09 |  Man Utd
Ancelotti puts faith in young duo
24 Dec 09 |  Chelsea
Torres urges Reds to keep Benitez
22 Dec 09 |  Liverpool
Zola hopes to manage expectations
21 Dec 09 |  Premier League
Birmingham 0-0 Chelsea
26 Dec 09 |  Premier League
Burnley 1-1 Bolton
26 Dec 09 |  Premier League
Fulham 0-0 Tottenham
26 Dec 09 |  Premier League
Liverpool 2-0 Wolves
26 Dec 09 |  Premier League
Man City 2-0 Stoke
26 Dec 09 |  Premier League
Sunderland 1-1 Everton
26 Dec 09 |  Premier League
West Ham 2-0 Portsmouth
26 Dec 09 |  Premier League
Wigan 1-1 Blackburn
26 Dec 09 |  Premier League
How to watch Match of the Day
09 Aug 11 |  Match of the Day


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