LIVERPOOL, April 11 – Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insists his side have proved they deserve a Champions League place as they prepare to face Liverpool at Anfield on Monday.
Mancini’s men have seven games remaining as they look to hold on to a top-four spot in the Premier League table.
And they also take on bitter rivals Manchester United in an FA Cup semi-final on Saturday at the end of a week that could define their season.
Big spending City have failed to launch a challenge for the Premier League title and were also frustrated to be knocked out of the last 16 of the Europa League by Dynamo Kiev.
City supporters are desperate to end their long wait for a trophy, which stretches back to their League Cup win in 1976.
But former Inter manager Mancini, who has faced constant speculation about his future, feels that taking their place in the Champions League for the first time will be key to developing the club.
"This year our target at the start of the season was to finish in the top four and be in the Champions League," he said.
"I think we deserve to achieve this because we have been at the top most of the season with United and Arsenal, always being between first and fourth position.
"We now have seven games until the end of the season and we will do everything to be in the Champions League next season.
"I am very happy to manage here at Manchester City as it is a big challenge.
"I think we can become a top team in two or three years. We have improved a lot and this for me is a good squad and I am very proud to be here.
"In football the situation can change every five weeks but in my opinion Manchester City will be one of the top clubs in Europe in the next five years."
Mancini will be without defenders Micah Richards and Jerome Boateng with respective hamstring and knee problems, while Liverpool are also missing a host of players for the game.
England midfielder Steven Gerrard will not play again this season due to a groin problem and Danish defender Daniel Agger is also ruled out for the rest of the campaign with a knee injury.
Full-backs Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly are also both out with hamstring injuries to leave manager Kenny Dalglish short of options at the back.
With a lengthy injury list, Dalglish is considering throwing in youngsters Jack Robinson and John Flanagan against City.
Dalglish admits the current situation, with European football looking well beyond them, is not good enough for a club of Liverpool’s pedigree.
He said: "We’re obviously happier being sixth than seventh, but we’d also be happier being fifth than sixth.
"The football club has greater ambition than to settle for sixth spot and we’ll be looking to improve on that as best we possibly can.
"The football club is better than sixth but we’ve got to prove that on the pitch.
"We don’t know what team City will put out, we don’t know if they’ll be focused on the semi-final or not.
"I’m sure they place equal importance on their position in the league but when you see a trophy at the end of it sometimes your concentration wanes a little bit. We hope that can be the case.
"I’m sure they’ll have half an eye on the cup tie because it’s a massive game for them and a chance for them to get a bit of silverware."