Big Sam on: Manchester City

Morning Sam, what’s the team news for Sunday’s game?

SA: "We’re missing Diafra Sakho and obviously Andy Carroll and James Tomkins. Those are the three players likely to be selected if they were fit. That leaves us a bit short of goal scoring options as Sakho and Carroll are our two top scorers this season. I’m expecting Carlton Cole to come in and play a big role for us in the next few games, hopefully he can deliver what we know he is capable of." 

What is the situation with Sakho at the moment?

SA: "He’s got a problem with his thigh. He may be back towards the end of the season, we’re not sure yet, we have to be very careful that he doesn’t aggravate the injury. He may be back in a few weeks. 

As you don’t have too much to play for, does that allow you more time to get him back fit?

SA: "If he’s fit, he’s fit. We won’t risk him if he’s 95% fit, we’ll wait until he is 100% ready. He’ll have to complete at least four or five days full training with the squad before he’s ready to play." 

And Enner Valencia is OK?

SA: "Valencia has recovered fine, it was just a case of a bit of bone bruising from a stamp against Stoke." 

What is your reaction to Manchester City’s recent dip in form?

SA: "I’m very surprised that Manchester City have lost four away games on the trot. I think that’s a huge shock across the football world based on the amount of talent they have. Like ourselves, they can’t seem to find a way to win recently.

"I watched them against Crystal Palace and I thought they defended brilliantly after they scored but generally Manchester City are exceptionally good at breaking down defences. Hopefully we can test their nerve, at home they are usually very good so we know how tough it’ll be." 

"Their performances certainly haven’t been that bad, by the way they started the game against Manchester United they looked strong but they couldn’t maintain that level." 

There’s been a lot of speculation about Manuel Pellegrini’s future and the majority of names being linked to the job are all foreign. When are we going to reach the point where British managers are linked with jobs?

SA: "Well, we’ve got Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool, that’s a great bonus for British managers. I think the British managers who are in the Premier League are very good at what they do because you don’t stay in the job for long if you’re not. You get tested at every level and every aspect and every manager enjoys managing at this level. Obviously you want to manage at the highest you can." 

On that note, who do you think will get manager of the year?

SA: "Ronald Koeman probably for what he’s done at Southampton in his first year and with the number of players they’ve changed around. They managed to sustain a top sixth position which is a fabulous achievement." 

You said last week that meetings have been held for pre-season tours, is that hindered by the fact you don’t know if you’ll be in Europe via the fair play system yet?

SA: "We’ve got plans for both scenarios. If we are in Europe we’ll be back earlier and if we’re out of it we’ll come back on 1 July which is one of the smallest close seasons we’ve ever had. Added to that we won’t have our international players back because of their games in June." 

Is it a headache you could do without?

SA: "I think it’s an opportunity to play in Europe which every player and manager wants to do. It doesn’t matter that it’s via the back door, we’ll all look forward to playing in Europe if we do get there."

Another late goal conceded last week against Stoke City?

SA: "Late goals have been terrible for our results recently. Stoke was probably one of our lesser performances but we were still 30 seconds away from winning it. We need to make sure we don’t show the type of nerves that we did because we looked exceedingly nervous." 

Both teams aren’t playing as well as they could be, does that effect the psychology of the game?

SA: "Maybe, I’m more concerned about getting the best out of my team. Maybe City are a wounded animal and they might come out all guns blazing or they might be tentative. We won’t know until the match starts. We’re expecting them to put in a determined performance in front of their own fans." 

What do you make of Garry Monk’s comments saying you’re a fantastic manager and you’ve had a fantastic season?

SA: "We have had a good season but we’ve thrown away a lot of points. If we hadn’t we could’ve been sitting alongside Garry’s side or even higher. Garry has done an exceptional job himself in his first season as a manager. When a fellow manager compliments you it’s always nice." 

Do you have a points total in mind?

SA: "We do, and it’s changed a few times across the season. At the moment we want to reach the 50 point mark or higher, that will make sure we finish higher than we have done in the three years we’ve been back." 

Is it hard to keep the players motivated?

SA: "The motivation for the players should be that they’ve let themselves down by not achieving the results that they should have done, from the positions we’ve been in. We want to get the feel good factor back by winning a few games and getting the confidence back up." 

Kick It Out have published a report about the levels of racist abuse aimed at players on social media, do you think more need to be done?

SA: "Absolutely, I think we need to do all we can to get rid of racism out of football for good. It’s one of the biggest issues in football. While social media certainly has its advantages it can be a terrible tool for abuse. We should have a worldwide law that brings these people to task because it’s not acceptable."