Man City's Carlos Tevez could return for Chelsea match

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Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini says Carlos Tevez could make a first-team return against Chelsea next week.

The striker, 28, has been out of action since being accused of failing to warm up in the Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich in September.

He has played two reserve games in recent weeks to build his fitness after apologising to the club and supporters.

City face Chelsea on Wednesday 21 March by which time they could be four points behind rivals Manchester United.

United play Wolves away on Sunday and City's next league match is the Chelsea game at Etihad Stadium.

Mancini, speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, also revealed that Gareth Barry, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta were out of Thursday's Europa League tie against Sporting Lisbon through injury.

However, Joleon Lescott could be on the bench after recovering from a groin injury.

Tevez scored 44 goals in only 69 Premier League games during his first two seasons at City before the dispute in September.

He seemed certain to leave City during the January transfer window after returning to Argentina without the club's permission, but now looks set to figure in the title race.

Asked whether Tevez, who is ineligible for the Europa League, would play at Chelsea, Mancini said: "We will see in the next week. It depends on Carlos. Will he be OK? Probably but it depends on a lot of things."

City are second in the Premier League after losing to Swansea at the weekend, a defeat that knocked them off top spot for the first time in five months. They also failed to score in Thursday's Europa League loss to Sporting Lisbon.

Their home form has been exemplary, with 14 straight Premier League victories at the Etihad Stadium this season.

City have struggled on the road, though, winning won only two of their last eight Premier League away games and scoring just four goals.

"In Portugal and against Swansea we didn't play a very good game," Mancini said. "We didn't play like the usual Manchester City. We probably didn't deserve to lose both games but we need to play better.

"Now is a time to be strong and keep going because we are a top team and have time to recover.

"We are very disappointed for our supporters after Swansea because I saw on the TV one of our supporters cry. We want to win also for this guy and the other supporters.

"We are positive. We think we will win the Premier League and the Europa League. If we think a different way it will be a mistake."

Mancini added that he hoped Manchester United beat Athletic Bilbao on Thursday to stay in the Europa League, or he fears their rivals could gain an advantage by having less games to play and one trophy to focus on.

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