Mancini ready to swing the axe
Roberto Mancini is ready to axe those Manchester City he believes do not have the stomach for a fight.
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Mancini was furious at the limp manner of City's 3-1 defeat at Southampton at the weekend, a result which leaves the reigning champions 12 points behind leaders Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League with 12 games left.
Peter Reid, a predecessor of the Italian's at City, claims there is little chance of the club overtaking United in the same fashion as last season, and Mancini himself has admitted the odds are slim.
The City boss will put the microscope on his team and said he will make significant changes for the FA Cup fifth round visit of Leeds on Sunday.
He told the Manchester Evening News: "I am sure we will change that, because I will change players next week.
"I only want players who are ready for the fight in the last 12 games.
"I am very angry with a lot of my players, and very disappointed at the performance, because it is impossible to play the way we did.
"We didn't fight for every ball. We can't always win by playing well - that is normal. Sometimes we play well and win, but you also need to be able to win because you fight for every ball, and fight against an opponent who also wants to win the game.
"Every team that plays against us treats it like a Champions League final, but we should know this, it is normal.
"We now have 12 games left, need to do well in the Premier League, and we have the FA Cup - there are games left and we can do better. We need to finish the season the way we did last year."
Carlos Tevez is expected to return to City this week after a family problem, and Vincent Kompany should also be available again, as will Matija Nastasic and Kolo Toure who were not risked after late returns from international duty.
Mancini branded the fixture demands caused by the international fixtures "ridiculous" but did not hold his defenders - including midfielder Javi Garcia in a makeshift centre-back role - responsible for the Southampton defeat.
He added: "The fixtures are ridiculous sometimes, as we played on Saturday and then had six players who came back on Friday, and five who came back Thursday night.
"Sometimes it is impossible.
"Nastasic came back Friday and Kolo came back three or four days ago - plus the last time Javi Garcia played there, he played really, really well.
"On Saturday we played well in defence, but the problem was that we didn't give the defenders any help. They were left to play alone, and we conceded two goals the like of which I have never seen in my life."
Reid said United had opened up their lead by wining matches even when they were not playing well.
He told Press Association Sport: "Manchester United have done it and Manchester City haven't and that's the bottom line.
"That is why they are 12 points clear and that is the reason I think they will win it.
"I think it is very difficult to retain a title. Everyone wants to beat the champions," added Reid, speaking at St Helens Junior Football Club who are halfway through the Football Pools 90-Day Community Challenge to complete a £50,000 makeover.
"Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure, two of their best players, haven't been as influential as they were last year.
"They haven't scored enough goals - they scored a lot last season - and that all comes into the equation."