Manchester City vs. Wigan Athletic  1 - 0


Richards braced for Zabaleta duel

20 April 2013 04:19

Manchester City defender Micah Richards says he faces a tough battle to displace Pablo Zabaleta from the club's right-back slot.

Richards had been sidelined since last October after recovering from knee surgery but the 24-year-old made his return in City's 1-0 victory over Wigan Athletic on Wednesday.

Zabaleta has been one of Roberto Mancini's most consistent performers this season and Richards insisted he is happy to see the Argentine flourish, despite keeping him out of first-team contention.

"It is hard to smile when injured but I am never really jealous of anyone," Richards told reporters.

"He is a quality player, Zaba. He gives 100 percent all the time. He has probably been our player of the season so far.

"Zaba is one of my best friends in the team so to see him doing well, I am most happy for him.

"Last time after injury I almost tried to rush back. This time I don't want to rush back. I want to take it steady and when I am called upon try to do a job. It has definitely been frustrating, especially when you see United top of the league.

"After last season I thought we would have kicked on and maybe been a bit better, maybe retained it. We haven't done that but I think next season we will regroup and hopefully we will get it back."

Despite starting against Wigan, Richards believes his first-team chances may be limited between now and the end of the season due to Zabaleta's strong displays.

"I think Zaba is going to be back in on Sunday after the way he has been playing but if I am called upon I will give 100 per cent," Richards said.

"For me it is just getting back, getting some minutes under my belt, just to play 80 minutes tonight was enough for me for now.

"I will just keep training, working hard, trying to get fitter and stronger. Hopefully I will get some more games before the end of the season."


Martinez plans another great escape

18 April 2013 20:09

Roberto Martinez believes keeping Wigan up this season will be his toughest challenge in his four years at the DW Stadium.

The Spaniard has overseen late escapes from relegation in each of the past two seasons, and will need a repeat performance if his side are to preserve their Premier League status.

The Latics were unfortunate to come away from Wednesday's trip to Manchester City with a 1-0 defeat, a result that leaves them three points from safety with a game in hand.

Although encouraged by the level of his side's performance, Martinez has revealed he is taking nothing for granted and still expects his players to fight for survival.

"If you watch our performance and think Wigan Athletic are a team in the bottom three you would scratch your head. That brings disappointment," Martinez told Sky Sports.

"We have been in this position before and know what to expect but that doesn't make it easier.

"It is going to be a really tough ending of the season and for me it is the hardest battle we have had for a few years but we are ready for it.

"The performance was as good as it gets but sometimes getting the three points is out of your hands and that was the case.

"We have got things very clear. We need to perform exactly the same as we did here. If we do that the points will come, there are no two ways about it."

Wigan now have six games left to try and pull clear of the relegation zone, as well as the added bonus of an FA Cup final against Manchester City.

"It is a really exciting period with an FA Cup final right in the middle of it," Martinez said.

"The team is fresh, excited and if we play like last night we will get a lot of points and good moments.

"We don't look at the table. That is something you maybe hear too often but it is the truth.

"We didn't go to Manchester City for a point or damage limitation. We wanted to win and we deserved to win. But we have to learn. When we deserve to win, we have to win."


Mancini unhappy with Richards display

18 April 2013 01:40

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini launched a scathing attack on Micah Richards' first appearance for the club in over five months.

The defender came in to replace Pablo Zabaleta for Wednesday's late 1-0 win over Wigan but his boss could not hide his disappointment in the 24-year-old's performance, suggesting that the right-back needs to work harder.

"I think that he needs to work a lot," Mancini said. "I didn't like it (the performance). I am happy because he comes back to play but I thought that he was in better form.

"After six months, though, it is impossible to play well for 70 minutes. He was tired but it is important that he came back to play."

The Italian conceded, however, that it was crucial to allow Zabaleta to refresh his batteries after a prolonged spell in the side while Richards was unavailable.

"Pablo has played a lot of games, it was important to give him a break," Mancini said.

With only three days having passed since their tense FA Cup semi-final win over Chelsea, Mancini felt that his players suffered from fatigue against the Latics.

"We had to work really hard because Wigan played very well," he said. "Every game that we play against them is difficult because they play football and they play to win every game.

"I think we didn't play very well because we were so tired. Only in the last 20-25 minutes we improved and played better.

"There's only three days and for this reason we play with the four, five new players because we spent a lot of energy against Chelsea and it was difficult."


Premier League: Manchester City 1 Wigan 0

17 April 2013 22:59

Carlos Tevez's late strike gave Manchester City a crucial 1-0 victory over Wigan to keep their hopes of retaining the Premier League title alive.

The home side were frustrated by a well-organised Wigan side, who created plenty of chances of their own, notably through the impressive attacking triumvirate of Shaun Maloney, Franco Di Santo and Arouna Kone.

City, who lost Sergio Aguero to injury at half-time, stepped it up after the break but could not find an elusive opening goal, with Aguero's replacement Edin Dzeko missing a great chance before Tevez's moment of magic secured a gutsy win.

Wigan started brightly but it was the hosts who mustered the first real opening, with Aleksandar Kolarov flashing a free-kick just inches wide of Joel Robles' left-hand post, as the Spanish stopper stood motionless.

Aguero looked the likeliest to break the deadlock and nearly did so after tricking his way down the byline before curling just wide of the far post.

Kolarov, on the other hand, was particularly wasteful with his final ball from the left wing as he squandered a brilliant opportunity to play in Samir Nasri after Tevez had threaded a ball through to him.

As the half wore on, though, the more frustrated City were becoming with a Wigan side who were not only dealing with the home side's plethora of attacking riches but also causing problems for the City backline, with Kolarov being targeted time and again by the visitors.

The ploy nearly paid off as Wigan wasted the chance of the first half. A lovely move involving Kone, who worked his way brilliantly past Vincent Kompany, and Maloney resulted in Di Santo sidestepping his way past the woeful Kolarov and Joleon Lescott, but the Argentinean's side-footed effort was superbly kept out by the sprawling Joe Hart.

Moments later City almost produced an immediate sucker-punch of their own as Tevez raced away down the right and sent in an inviting centre which Aguero somehow failed to connect with from just a few yards out.

Wigan began the second period just how they ended the first, frustrating a City side bereft of ideas in midfield and came close to grabbing the all-important opening goal on two occasions in the opening exchanges after the break.

First, the instrumental Maloney curled a sublime effort beyond Hart but found the towering presence of Lescott on the line, who lashed clear.

Then, after more intricate Latics play, Di Santo played in the unmarked Kone, but his first touch let him down and Kompany recovered to clear as the home side were made to weather a storm.

Their hard work was almost undone, however, when substitute James Milner's low cross eluded everyone in the area, with fellow sub Dzeko and Nasri unable to apply a telling touch.

The game became an end-to-end affair with Wigan sub Callum McManaman coming close with a low shot before Dzeko missed an even more presentable chance, firing straight at Robles when clean through.

Just when it appeared as if City had run out of ideas, up stepped Tevez to produce the moment of quality the game had been crying out for, as he skipped his way past a couple of challenges before bending a sumptuous strike beyond the despairing Robles to send the Etihad Stadium into raptures and give City a flicker of hope in the title race.


Barry: City will be back stronger

17 April 2013 20:13

Gareth Barry has issued a warning to Manchester United, insisting City will cut no corners to recapture the trophy next season.

City have underachieved this term and lie 15 points behind Manchester United at the top of the table, with their title defence in ruins.

They also disappointed in the Champions League, dropping out at the group stages, but can still end the campaign on a high by beating Wigan to lift the FA Cup and finish second in the league.

Barry conceded City have taken a backwards step, but insists they have learned from their mistakes and are looking ahead to next season, when he believes they will come back a stronger force.

"It is frustrating in many ways because we’ve shown what a great team we are," he told the club's official website.

"So it's only natural to think that had we played at our best all year we could have had a great chance of retaining the title, but that's probably not going to be now.

"We've had injuries this year we didn't have last time around and we have almost a fully-fit squad now and I think it shows.

"All we can do is take each game as it comes, play our best and try and win. Next season we will be back and have learned from what has happened and the aim will be to win the title back."


City taking Wigan threat seriously

17 April 2013 16:46

David Platt insists Manchester City's Premier League clash with Wigan on Wednesday is not simply preparation for next month's FA Cup final.

The two sides will come together midweek in the English top flight before competing again on May 11 at Wembley Stadium.

But Roberto Mancini's second-in-command is adamant that each match is a separate incident ahead of Wednesday's clash, citing the amount of football to be played in between.

"It is not a case of because we are playing them tonight, we will know how to play them in the cup final," he told the official FA website.

"Each team has four or five games before then."

Platt went on to point out that Wigan continue to fight the threat of relegation from the Premier League, a reality that will likely monopolise their attention until the cup final draws near.

"Roberto Martinez is a good manager and I am sure they are looking at the next four or five games and thinking, 'If we can get away from that relegation threat, then we can enjoy the day'," Platt said.

"It doesn't take the shine off the day but retaining Premier League status for them is paramount.

"I am sure if they have it in the bag by then, they will be delighted and they can go and enjoy a Wembley cup final."


Premier League preview: Manchester City v Wigan

15 April 2013 12:57

Manchester City host Wigan in the Premier League on Wednesday in a preview of this year's FA Cup final.

Roberto Mancini's side overcame Chelsea 2-1 in their semi-final on Sunday to book a place in their second final in three years, one day after Wigan beat Millwall 2-0 to ensure they would be at Wembley on May 11th.

Both sides will turn their attention to the Premier League for the time being with Wednesday's clash shaping up as a vital match for Wigan as they attempt to avoid the drop.

Roberto Martinez's men are currently languishing in 18th position on the table, three points from safety with a result at the Etihad crucial to their survival hopes.

Wigan have become renowned for late season heroics in recent years and their current form suggests this campaign will be no different with their last loss coming to Liverpool in early March.

Striker Arouna Kone has proved to be a pivotal player as the season draws to a close, with the 29-year-old scoring late winners against Newcastle and Norwich.

However, the Ivory Coast man will have to be at his best to score against the league's toughest defence with City so far conceding just 27 goals from 31 games.

City will be particularly happy with the recent form of centre-back Matija Nastasic, who was the standout player against Chelsea on Sunday, with his performance sure to give Mancini a selection headache ahead of the Wigan game.

Less positive for City is the injury cloud surrounding star midfielder David Silva, with the Spaniard failing a late fitness test ahead of the FA Cup semi-final and will again be in doubt against Wigan.

Despite the potential absence of Silva and Wigan's good form, City will be confident they can collect all three points against Martinez's men, who they comfortably beat 2-0 at the DW Stadium earlier in the season.

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 38 +43 89
2 38 +32 78
3 38 +36 75
4 38 +35 73
5 38 +20 72
6 38 +15 63
7 38 +28 61
8 38 -4 49
9 38 -4 46
10 38 -8 46
11 38 -17 44
12 38 -10 43
13 38 -11 42
14 38 -11 41
15 38 -22 41
16 38 -23 41
17 38 -13 39
18 38 -26 36
19 38 -30 28
20 38 -30 25
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