If you're not willing to fight, then you're out! Mancini fires warning to City players after losing ground on United
Martin Ziegler, Press Association
11:08 GMT, 11 February 2013
11:22 GMT, 11 February 2013
Roberto Mancini is ready to wield the axe on his Manchester City squad and has warned his players he will only pick those who are ready to fight every inch of the way for the rest of the season.
Mancini was furious at the limp manner of City's 3-1 defeat at Southampton at the weekend which now leaves the reigning champions 12 points behind leaders Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League with 12 games left.
Mancini said he will make significant changes for the FA Cup fifth-round visit of Leeds on Sunday.
Thumbs up: Roberto Mancini put his disappointment to one side whilst watching Sampdoria take on Roma
He told the Manchester Evening News: 'I am sure we will change that, because I will change players next week.
'I only want players who are ready for the fight in the last 12 games.
'I am very angry with a lot of my players, and very disappointed at the performance, because it is impossible to play the way we did.
Down (and out): Manchester City are now 12 points adrift of United in the race for the Premier League title
'We didn't fight for every ball. We can't always win by playing well – that is normal. Sometimes we play well and win, but you also need to be able to win because you fight for every ball, and fight against an opponent who also wants to win the game.
'Every team that plays against us treats it like a Champions League final, but we should know this, it is normal.
'We now have 12 games left, (we) need to do well in the Premier League, and we have the FA Cup – there are games left and we can do better. We need to finish the season the way we did last year.'
Blow: Joe Hart conceded three goals as City were soundly beaten by Southampton on Saturday
Carlos Tevez is expected to return to City this week after a family problem, and Vincent Kompany should also be available again, as will Matija Nastasic and Kolo Toure who were not risked after late returns from international duty.
Mancini branded the fixture demands caused by the international fixtures 'ridiculous' but did not hold his defenders – including midfielder Javi Garcia in a makeshift centre-back role – responsible for the Southampton defeat.
He added: 'The fixtures are ridiculous sometimes, as we played on Saturday and then had six players who came back on Friday, and five who came back Thursday night.
'Sometimes it is impossible. 'Nastasic came back Friday and Kolo came back three or four days ago – plus the last time Javi Garcia played there, he played really, really well.
'On Saturday we played well in defence, but the problem was that we didn't give the defenders any help. They were left to play alone, and we conceded two goals the like of which I have never seen in my life.'