IT’S proved tough at the top for Manchester City – and Shola Ameobi wants to make it even tougher.
Newcastle United take on Roberto Mancini’s beleaguered Premier League champions at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow.
Mancini yesterday admitted the title race was over – and the trophy would be heading back to Old Trafford.
The target for second-placed City is to win ALL of their remaining league games, according to Mancini, pictured, who has captain Vincent Kompany and Sergio Ageuro back fit.
Ameobi, a veteran of many fruitless trips to Eastlands, is understandably wary of Newcastle’s opponents.
“Obviously, they’re not firing on all cylinders at the moment, but they’re still a very dangerous outfit,” Ameobi said.
“They’re second in the table. They’ve got a lot of top, top players.
“The hardest thing to do is to defend a title – I’ve heard that said many times – and they’re finding that out this season.
“As much as they’ll be hurting, they’re still wanting to secure that second spot.
“They’ll want to finish as high as they can, as are we.
“I’ve heard Mancini say they’re going to try and win every game. He’s a winner. He’s got that mentality.
“They’ll be fighting tooth and nail to end the season on a high.”
United – who have never won at the Etihad Stadium – also have a pressing need for Premier League points, with Alan Pardew’s side still too close to the relegation zone for comfort.
Newcastle are 13th in the table and six points clear of the bottom three.
However, Pardew’s side have improved since January’s arrivals, and Shola and his team-mates – who have the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final against Benfica next week – are buoyant.
“We’ve found it tough there, obviously, with the injection of money and the players they’ve been able to buy,” said Ameobi.
“They’re a top, top side. We’ve found them hard to beat. We’ve been beaten soundly there in recent seasons.
“It’d be nice to change that trend. We’ve got players who have come in who have contributed immensely.
“They don’t see the recent past – it’s brand new for them – so hopefully that can work in our favour.
“It’s a big test for us. It’s always great to pit yourself against the best. We’ll all have to raise our game. Hopefully, we can match them.”
“When they came up here (a 3-1 defeat for United), we matched them for long periods. We’ve come a long way. We’ve got our additions as well.
“Hopefully, we can go out there and give a performance and get a result.”
On the return of Kompany and Aguero, Ameobi added: “We’re probably not catching them at the best time!
“Probably before the international break would have been great. They’ve got those two players coming in. They’ve been a big part of their success.
“It makes it that bit tougher, but Kompany hasn’t played in a while.
“You’ve got to take what little you get from these games, and have a bit of luck.”
The bulk of Pardew’s squad have been away on international duty over the past fortnight, and the small band of players who stayed on Tyneside, including Ameobi, have been working hard on their fitness.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks,” said the 31-year-old. “We’ve worked really hard. It’s a long two weeks when there’s no game.
“We’re especially looking forward to this game. We’re excited. We trained together, and everyone was buzzing and ready to go.”
Meanwhile, John Carver and Graham Barrow have been fined for their touchline altercation during Newcastle’s United’s visit to the DW Stadium.
Carver, Newcastle’s assistant manager, attempted to speak Wigan Athletic’s Callum McManaman – who had injured Massadio Haidara with a reckless tackle – as the teams headed to the dressing rooms.
And he was confronted and pushed by Latics coach Barrow.
Carver has been fined and warned about his future conduct by the Football Association, while the FA fined Barrow £1,000 and handed him a one-game touchline ban.