MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has insisted his multi-million pound side will not underestimate giantkillers Leeds in their FA Cup fifth round tie at Eastlands on Sunday.
Mancini’s side are effectively out of the Premier League title race, with the defending champions trailing cross-town rivals and leaders Manchester United by 12 points with 12 games remaining, and were knocked out of the Champions League in the group phase.
Italian boss Mancini accepts there is now an even greater incentive for his team to look to secure the FA Cup and he believes the season will still be viewed as a success if they lift a trophy they last won in 2011.
But he admitted Leeds would offer a stiff test after the second-tier club knocked Premier League Tottenham Hotspur out in the fourth round.
“Now the FA Cup is different,” said Mancini. “It is clear that it will not be easy because they beat Tottenham. I don’t think to play against Leeds is easy.
“In the FA Cup, every game is difficult. This is another way to do better in the last three months. It is possible to play in the final.”
Mancini had threatened to make widespread changes in the wake of the comprehensive 3-1 defeat at Southampton last weekend.
Romanian goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon is set to start ahead of Joe Hart, who is rested.
But otherwise Mancini wants to use a largely first-choice side against Neil Warnock’s team, as he did in wins over Watford and Stoke that took City into the fifth round.
“Warnock is a top manager, he has big experience,” said Mancini. “I played against him last year with QPR, we had big problems when we won 3-2 in London. He knows football very well.
“I will make some changes because I have two or three players injured but after that, I will play with the best team.”
City captain Vincent Kompany will again be absent due to a calf injury while Gareth Barry is sidelined with an ankle problem.
However, Serbia defender Matija Nastasic is available again after missing the trip to Southampton through injury.
Leeds have already pulled off several cup shocks this season.
As well as knocking Tottenham out of the FA Cup, they also beat Everton and Southampton in the League Cup.
“We’ve done brilliantly in the cups so far,” said Warnock, whose side are well off the pace in the race for a play-off spot and promotion to the lucrative Premier League.
“We’ve shown what ability we’ve got in the squad and that’s what makes it more frustrating with our league form.
“This is by far the toughest cup game we’ve had this time, because it’s against the (Premier League) champions and it’s the only competition they’ve got left to win.
“They’re under pressure because they’re in second place in the league,” added Warnock. “Anyone would love that kind of pressure, but they’re not going to win the league this season.
“They’ve come across the maestro that is Alex Ferguson at United.
“He’s the only difference because City are way above the rest of the pack and if it wasn’t for Sir Alex, City would be right in it.
“The lesson is that you don’t ruffle his feathers by winning the league, that’s what they’ve found out.”
Warnock could rest veteran midfielder Michael Brown ahead of Leeds’s return to league action at home to Blackpool 72 hours after they visit Eastlands.
Reserve goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown, who has been used in cup competition this season, is set to replace regular number one Paddy Kenny.