Man City boss needs his strikers start to fire at Arsenal

Man City boss needs his strikers start to fire at Arsenal

LONDON - The Associated Press
Man City boss needs his strikers start to fire at Arsenal

Coach Mancini criticizes Mario Balotelli, questioning the controversial Italian striker’s work rate in recent games. REUTERS photo

With his team’s English Premier League title challenge starting to falter, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini must make some big decisions regarding his all-star forward line ahead of the crunch match at Arsenal on April 8.

In Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko, Mancini has a wealth of options up front but the expensive quartet have entertained and frustrated in equal measure this season.

Aguero is hoping to return from an injury, Tevez is itching to start after three substitute appearances following his return from a strike, while the mercurial Balotelli has again made the headlines for the wrong reasons because of more off-field misdemeanors this week.

Whichever strikeforce he selects at Emirates Stadium, Mancini needs them to deliver the goals to keep City in touch with Manchester United at the top of the table.

Left behind
If United beats QPR that day, City, which has won only one of its last four league games - would be eight points behind in second place by kick-off against Arsenal. Both teams will have six games left after this weekend.

Asked if the title race could be all over after those games, Mancini said: “If we lose against Arsenal and they beat QPR - yes.”

Mancini appears to be losing patience with Balotelli, criticizing the Italy international’s work rate in recent games and becoming increasingly infuriated with the 21-year-old striker’s off-field antics.

Balotelli escaped unhurt after being involved in a car crash on Thursday, a day after admitting to an affair with a woman who Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney repeatedly slept with in 2010 while his wife was pregnant.

“I told him, ‘If you played with me, 10 years ago, I give to you every day one punch in your head!’” Mancini said. “I speak with him - not every day because I’d need a psychologist - but every two days I speak with him ... Mario, as a player, can be one of the top in Europe. I don’t want him to lose his talent.”

Aguero looks to have recovered from what Mancini last week called a “stupid” injury, a swelling of the striker’s foot after a reaction to a spray applied as treatment.

However, Mancini could yet hand Tevez a start after easing the player back into contention while he recovered his fitness after six months away from the club.