Will Mancini’s scarf bring magic?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

LON­DON: Roberto Mancini’s new­found pop­u­lar­ity with Manch­ester City fans gets its tough­est test yet to­day when the coach takes his team to Ever­ton in the Premier League.

Mancini’s sta­tus is such that, with four straight wins fol­low­ing his ar­rival, City say their club shops have re­sponded to de­mand from fans and started sell­ing repli­cas of the tra­di­tional blue-and-white striped scarf he wears while walk­ing the touch­line.

City’s fans are renowned for their loy­alty, stick­ing with the club even when it dropped into the third tier a decade ago, but fans’ per­cep­tion of Mancini’s abil­i­ties may be read­justed should the team he in­her­ited from Mark Hughes, stum­ble at Good­i­son Park.

Ever­ton are slowly re­cov­er­ing from a poor start to the sea­son and last week’s 2-2 draw at in-form Arse­nal stretched their un­beaten run to five matches.

Car­los Tevez has at­tracted much of the at­ten­tion with seven goals in five matches, in­clud­ing a hat trick in Mon­day’s 4-1 win over Black­burn that lifted City into the top four, but it is the de­fence that could be tested on Satur­day.

De­fender Dedryck Boy­ata, a City trainee who has played his first two matches for the first team since Mancini ar­rived, said the man­ager has been fo­cus­ing hard on the rear­guard.

“We’ve been work­ing more on team shape and work­ing in teams,” the 19-year-old said. “De­fend­ers work with de­fend­ers, mid­field­ers with mid­field­ers and so on and we also con­cen­trate more on tac­tics. And it’s work­ing so far.”

Un­der Mancini, City have con­ceded only one goal in four matches and scored 10.

United States mid­fielder Lan­don Dono­van could make his home de­but for Ever­ton af­ter mak­ing the first ap­pear­ance of his ten­ure on loan from Ma­jor League Soc­cer against Arse­nal.

“I am very ex­cited about play­ing at Good­i­son,” Dono­van said. “See­ing how the fans re­spond and see­ing their pas­sion, I loved that.”

Dono­van man­aged 70 min­utes against Arse­nal and is hop­ing to play the full match against a City side still in con­tention for the Premier League ti­tle.

“When I play a full game I am more ef­fec- tive,” Dono­van said. “I think I could have worn them down a lit­tle more but hope­fully this week­end we will be able to do that against Manch­ester City.”

Any slip up by City could give Tot­ten­ham the chance to climb back into the top four. Spurs host a Hull side they beat 5-1 this sea­son.

Dean Mar­ney is in­cluded in Hull’s squad and could face his for­mer club, but fel­low mid­fielder Jimmy Bullard is out with a knee in­jury and for­ward Daniel Cousin is at the African Cup of Na­tions with Gabon.

Also to­day, leader Chelsea host Sun­der­land and sec­ond-place Manch­ester United host Burn­ley.

United trail Chelsea by a point and should be con­fi­dent of beat­ing a team that lost its man­ager to Bolton last week, but United have lost two and drawn one of their past four Premier League matches and lost 1-0 to newly pro­moted Burn­ley in Au­gust.

United will be without Scot­land mid­fielder Dar­ren Fletcher be­cause of sus­pen­sion, while Eng­land in­ter­na­tion­als Rio Fer­di­nand and Owen Har­g­reaves are still not fit to play.

But goal­keeper Ed­win van der Sar could be fit to re­turn af­ter two months out.

“It de­pends how Ed­win feels but he has been train­ing very well,” Fer­gu­son said.

Black­burn host Ful­ham, Portsmouth are at home against Birm­ing­ham, Stoke en­ter­tain Liver­pool and Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers play Wi­gan at home in to­day’s other matches.

Arse­nal are at Bolton to­mor­row, when As­ton Villa host West Ham.

Robert Mancini and his ‘su­per scarf’

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