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Mancini rules out midfield duo

Mancini and Vieira press conference

Mancini and Vieira press conference

Stephen Ireland and Patrick Vieira will both be missing from City's midfield for the difficult Barclays Premier League trip to Everton tomorrow.

New manager Roberto Mancini knows that the visit to Goodison Park will be the toughest challenge yet to his 100 per cent record as Blues boss with four successive victories.

But playmaker Ireland, who has been ruled out for two weeks by a hamstring injury, will not be considered although he has a chance of playing in Tuesday's Carling Cup derby semi-final.

New signing Vieira, who arrived from Mancini's old club Inter Milan last week nursing a damaged calf, is now pencilled in for a possible debut at Scunthorpe in the FA Cup fourth round.

On the plus side, England Under-21 star Nedum Onuoha is back in full training and jostling for a place on the bench at Everton, with left-back Wayne Bridge on the verge of a return to training.

Mancini said: "Everton are playing very well now. They started the season so-so but I watched the game at Arsenal last week and they played very well. It will be a hard game for us.

"It's important that we play well and improve game after game, and then we can look at the table. Six or seven teams can get in the top four and there's a long way to go, 18 games for us.

"At the moment there are three teams who can win the title - Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, but football is strange. It can change in a month. Now it's three, but it can change."

Mancini, who declared himself a Robinho fan on becoming manager last month, said it was "possible" that the mercurial Brazilian would play at Everton and in the semi-final first leg.

Robinho missed the FA Cup win at Middlesbrough but came off the bench against Blackburn. City's boss said: "In attack I have five or six players and I feel sorry for them when I have to decide."

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