NO COMPLACENCY: Mancini says team will take nothing for granted
MANCHESTER City are steeling themselves for one final assault on the Premier League at Newcastle today, where victory over the Magpies will leave them on the brink of the title.
After trailing bitter rivals Manchester United by eight points less than a month ago, City took control of the title race at Eastlands this week with a gritty 1-0 win over Sir Alex Ferguson's side.
Two more wins, over Newcastle and at home to QPR, will see Roberto Mancini's men pip United for the title, unless Ferguson's team can make up an eight-goal disdvantage in goal difference.
Yet Mancini insists City will not take anything for granted against a Newcastle side who are brimming with confidence after an impressive 2-0 win at Chelsea which kept alive their dreams of Champions League qualification.
City's fans may have revelled in their derby triumph over United on Monday which saw them edge ahead in the title race, but Mancini has warned that it will count for nothing if they slip up against Newcastle.
"I am happy that we are here and we have this chance after being eight points behind United," Mancini said. "We now have a big chance.
"But 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."
Mancini also believes today's assignment at St James' Park, where they have won on three of their last four visits, will be more demanding than their title-decider against United.
"Against United we played at home and we played very well," said Mancini.
"Against Newcastle it will be harder."
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew knows that his side are tantalisingly close to a top-four finish, something that would represent a phenomenal achievement for a club that only returned to the top-flight in 2010.
"It's not often in a professional career that you get an opportunity to actually break into the top four in this country," Pardew said.
"We've been in and around it all year, we've touched fourth place and touched third a couple of times. We're going to give it everything."
City's title rivals United meanwhile can only watch and wait as events unfold at Newcastle before they face Swansea at Old Trafford in today's late kick-off.
If City fail to take maximum points, United will face Swansea knowing that a win will return the destiny of the title to their hands.
Ferguson, however, is sceptical about the possibility that Manchester City are about to let their slender advantage slip having worked so hard to get back in the title race.
"They have got two games left. If they win their two games they win the league," Ferguson said bluntly.
"People talk about goal difference, but it depends how many they win by. Say they win 3-0 on Sunday, their lead would be 11 and they still have QPR at home.
"That would be impossible."
Nevertheless Ferguson acknowledged that City would face a formidable challenge from Newcastle.
"The challenge for City is to win at Newcastle," said Ferguson. "It's a very difficult place and they are playing well."
At the other end of the table, Bolton and QPR are both in action today where a slip for either side could see them edge closer to relegation.
Third-bottom Bolton, who face West Bromwich Albion, currently trail QPR on goal difference. QPR have a must-win game against Stoke at Loftus Road.
Wins for both Bolton and QPR would mean that second-from-bottom Blackburn are relegated before they have even kicked a ball of their six-pointer against in-form Wigan tomorrow evening. AFP