Stoke are our biggest test, says Mancini


MANCHESTER CITY manager Roberto Mancini believes Stoke will represent an even greater threat to his side’s hopes of ending their 35-year trophy drought in tomrrow’s FA Cup final than vanquished semi-final opponents Manchester United.

City stand on the cusp of helping to return the north west to its traditional status as the powerbase of English football with the FA Cup set for a rare trip up the M6 and local rivals United placed to wrestle the Premier League trophy from Chelsea.

Barring City’s way are a Stoke side who destroyed Bolton at Wembley last month and put Arsenal to the sword at the Britannia Stadium last weekend, and Mancini realises Tony Pulis’ outfit are a more complete team than many give them credit for.

“Tomorrow will be harder than United,” he said. “Stoke are a strong team and a very difficult team.

“If we want to win we need to play very well. We should pay attention in every situation. We cannot concede anything.

“To think Stoke are an easy team would be a mistake.”

The FA Cup has resided in the south for the last four years and has only been north of the Watford Gap in four of the last 14 years.

City have already turned the tables on Tottenham, pipping them to the Champions League qualifying spot they missed out on last season with a 1-0 win over Harry Redknapp’s side at Eastlands on Tuesday.

And Mancini believes it is vital that City add something tangible to the prospect of dining at Europe’s top table for the first time come August if they are to continue their progress.

“We have achieved one piece of history by going into the Champions League,” he said. “Now it is time we won a title. It is important we start to do this as quickly as we can.”

Meanwhile, Mancini revealed he will give Carlos Tevez right up until the last moment to prove his fitness. The City captain made a 10 minute appearance as a substitute on Monday after a month out with a hamstring injury.

Whelan hopes for Wembley reward

STOKE midfielder Glenn Whelan is hoping to repay the club who gave him his break in English football by extending their run without a major trophy to 36 years. The 27-year-old played in City's youth team with the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips.

He said: “I don’t want to look back and say I’d change anything. I’m glad where I am now. We enjoy going into games where we're the underdogs, it gives us extra incentive.”