Mancini facing tough opener

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MANCHESTER, August 13 – Roberto Mancini's managerial acumen will be put under the spotlight when Manchester City travel to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, as the Italian attempts to find a winning formula from the start of the new Premier League season.Spurs pipped City to fourth spot, and a place in the lucrative Champions League last term.

But Mancini has since enjoyed a lavish pre-season spending spree, splashing out than 80 million pounds (120 million dollars) on new signings to leave his multi-talented and multi-national squad the envy of much of the Premier League.

The most notable signings at Eastlands have been World Cup winner David Silva, Yaya Toure from Barcelona and German defender Jerome Boateng.

Meanwhile, England winger James Milner is expected to complete a 26 million pounds switch from Aston Villa to bolster Mancini’s ranks still further.

But for the time being the Italian must focus on his starting line-up for the trip to White Hart Lane to face a Spurs side who will be challenging City for Champions League qualification and honours this season.

There remain doubts as to who will be City’s first choice goalkeeper, with both Shay Given and England’s Joe Hart battling to be the No.1.

Whoever is left out is sure to make their feelings clear, setting the tone for what could be a problematic season for Mancini, who will be feeling immense pressure to achieve success.

Toure, Silva and Boateng are sure to make their debuts, while Carlos Tevez is expected to lead the attack.

For the likes of Micah Richards, Patrick Vieira, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Craig Bellamy, Robinho and Emmanuel Adebayor the chances of them fitting into Mancini’s puzzle are far less certain.

Little wonder then that Mancini is playing for time, saying: "We couldn’t have all the players together until very recently.

"Many played in the World Cup, so some only started pre-season a week ago.

"Now many have been away again for international matches, and it’s a big problem. I don’t think I’ll have all the players at 100 percent for another 20 days, but this is a problem for every squad with good players like we have."

Mancini is nevertheless excited about the campaign ahead.

He has an immediate chance of revenge against the club who denied them fourth spot last time out and says: "I’m excited, it’s going to be a big year for us.

"That’s also why I wanted to build up the squad so we have plenty to choose from in each position. It’s not about revenge, no, it’s about winning the game."

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp knows this will be one of his toughest home examinations but he is boosted by the return to fitness of Gareth Bale, although Jonathan Woodgate and Roman Pavlyuchenko are unavailable.

It remains to be seen if Redknapp can conclude a deal for Villa’s Ashley Young in time, while William Gallas has also been linked with a move to Spurs.

Redknapp said: "You couldn’t wish for a much tougher start to the season.

"We all know what a threat Manchester City will be this season and for many seasons to come by the looks of things, so we need to be at it from the off and be ready.

"We are at home, which is good for us and now the onus is on us to make a positive start, but we know it won’t be easy by a long shot."

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