MANCHESTER // Carlos Tevez will probably be sat on the bench for Manchester City tonight.
He will probably be ordered to get ready by Roberto Mancini. This time, he will probably come on.
Not fully match fit, in the manager's opinion, he represents Plan B tonight. "I don't think Carlos can have more than 25-30 minutes," said the Italian.
Mancini is prepared to let bygones be bygones. Tevez has apologised for his behaviour the last time he was on the City bench.
Six months ago the striker refused to feature as a replacement in September's Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich. He has not appeared since.
Now the Argentine has a second chance. "What happened with Carlos six months ago was in the past," said Mancini. "For the last month he has been part of our plans and for the next two months he will be a City player."
It is an opportunity to rebuild a reputation, a situation where self-interest and the common good combine. Tevez may be playing for a summer move, but City are competing for the title.
"I think that Carlos wants to play football after six months; for his future, he needs to play football again," Mancini said. The striker's spell in self-imposed exile has led to a change of thought. "In training, he has been perfect, better than last year," Mancini said. "He wants to play and help the team and his attitude is better."
Despite their disagreements, the manager remained an admirer of Tevez's talent. "I always thought Carlos is a top player," he said.
That was evident in his first two seasons at the Etihad Stadium, when the forward scored 52 goals. In his absence, Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko have reached a half-century between them this season. But the other Argentine has been alone in delivering consistently. Yet while the composition of the attack is a subject for debate, the defence represents a greater concern.
Joleon Lescott's groin problem rules him out while Vincent Kompany's calf injury renders the captain a doubt. Unless he presses Micah Richards into emergency service in the centre of defence, Mancini may have to select the callow Stefan Savic.
With a revitalised Chelsea having won their four games since Roberto Di Matteo replaced Andre Villas-Boas as manager, the visitors approach the Etihad Stadium as the in-form side.
Front-runners for so long in the title race, City trail United by four points, albeit having played a game fewer. Win tonight and at Stoke City on Saturday and City will reclaim the lead. "We will win the title," Mancini said.
It is, he stressed, a rare opportunity. "Many players here have never had a chance like this to win the title." It is why he believes his squad is united for the run in. "If they don't do this, they are not professional players."
Yet City's last league game, a 1-0 defeat at Swansea City, was notable for a display of dissent from the substituted Gareth Barry.
"If one player plays bad, he can leave the pitch after 30 minutes like Gareth Barry," Mancini said.
"Gareth played two bad games that month because he had a problem with his back. But Gareth is a good guy."