City's title hopes to be lifted by Tevez's return

STEVE DOUGLAS AP Sports Writer Published:

LONDON (AP) -- Two months after writing off Carlos Tevez's career at Manchester City, manager Roberto Mancini could welcome back the Argentina forward in Wednesday's Premier League match against Chelsea in a bid to give his team's faltering title challenge a lift.

Tevez has been training with City for the past month after ending his long-standing rift with the club, which started when he refused to warm up during a Champions League match against Bayern Munich in September.

City lost its five-month lead in the title race to Manchester United last week and is now four points behind after the champions' 5-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday.

The ousted leaders' game in hand is against fifth-place Chelsea, which is just outside the Champions League places but has been revitalized since the dismissal of manager Andre Villas-Boas at the start of the month.

"He's like a new signing," City defender Joleon Lescott said of the potential return of Tevez, the team's former captain. "All the boys are excited and can't wait for him to get playing again.

"Over the last two years he has probably performed at the highest consistent level as anyone else, so none of us discourage what Carlos has done for the club and obviously what he continues to do."

Chelsea is in a fight for the final two Champions League qualification places with London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal, who are also in midweek action.

Third-place Tottenham, which is 13 points behind City, hosts Stoke while Arsenal, a point further back in fourth and three clear of Chelsea, visits Everton on Wednesday.

Seventh-place Liverpool needs to beat relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers to keep alive its fading hopes of a top-four finish.

Tottenham said Monday that its match against Stoke will go ahead as scheduled, four days after the team was involved in an FA Cup game in which Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the field.

Muamba is still critically ill in a London hospital, with the world of football having united in support of the former England Under-21 player.

Some of Tottenham's players appeared visibly distressed following the 23-year-old Muamba's collapse.

"It is possible that the effects of this could hit some quicker than others and despite these difficult circumstances, we all have to pull together and carry on with our season," Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. "We will be providing players with whatever support they need in order to help them move on from what has happened, while obviously always keeping Fabrice at the forefront of our minds and willing him to make a recovery."

Tottenham has lost its last three league games, boosting Arsenal's hopes of claiming third place.

"We've only finished in the top four once. It's not as if we have been there every year," Redknapp said. "If we finish in the top four, we have over-punched our weight to be perfectly truthful. We will have way exceeded expectations."

If Tevez does appear at the Etihad Stadium, his return will come nearly two months to the day that Mancini said it would be "impossible" for the striker to stay at City if he failed to secure a move away in the January transfer window.

Tevez has since repented, apologizing for his conduct following an unauthorized three-month absence spent at home in Argentina.

"Obviously the situation was not great for the club and it looked bad for everyone, but it was dealt with and the bright side is now that we have got him back and got him in the team again," Lescott said.

Bosnia international Edin Dzeko's form has dipped in recent months and he could be the striker to make way for Tevez against Chelsea, which has won four matches in a row since Roberto Di Matteo took temporary charge following the firing of Villas-Boas.

The latest victory was a 5-2 win over Leicester in the FA Cup quarterfinals, when Fernando Torres ended a career-worst scoreless streak of 26 games by scoring two goals.

"Hopefully his confidence is going to be high," Di Matteo said of the Spain striker.