MANCHESTER CITY manager Roberto Mancini admits he is ready to let rebel striker Carlos Tevez off the leash tonight against Chelsea in a bid to prevent his club’s season unravelling further.
Tevez has not played for six months following a huge row with Mancini in September, and fled to his native Argentina for three months without City’s consent in protest at his perceived unfair treatment.
But he finally returned to Manchester last month and apologised to the former Inter Milan boss, and has been steadily rebuilding match fitness in training and reserve outings.
Mancini (inset) now considers Tevez ready for first-team action again, as City look to recover from a dip in form that has seen them knocked off the top of the Premier League and dumped out of the Europa League.
They will slash the gap on leaders Manchester United to one point if they maintain their 100 per cent record at Eastlands in the league this season, but face a Chelsea side buoyant from four successive wins. “He is getting better,” Mancini said of Tevez. “But I don’t think Carlos can have more than 25-30 minutes. A player like him needs to play but for 90 minutes it is impossible. But if he can play 30 minutes, after 45, then in three or four games he could have 90 minutes, easily.”
Tevez’s possible return is the latest twist in the title race and seemed virtually inconceivable following his touchline bust-up with Mancini during the Champions League defeat at Bayern Munich on 27 September.
Mancini accused Tevez of refusing to come on as a substitute and declared his City career over. The combative former United and West Ham forward denied the charge but was fined by the club. The episode is estimated to have cost him as much as £9m in fines.
Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo played down the possibility of facing last year’s joint league top scorer and insisted his team could be the first this term to leave City with anything other than a defeat – despite the absence of injured captain John Terry.
“They’re obviously very strong at home, everybody knows that. But every run comes to an end,” said the unbeaten caretaker boss.