The Indianpost

Carlos Tevez and friends give Joleon Lescott workout

A spell with England may almost come as a respite to Joleon Lescott.
The Manchester City centre-half could, after all, be excused for a slight sense of relief that he is spared training with some formidable team-mates at his club for a week.

Whatever happens in the forthcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers with Bulgaria and Wales there will be no one quite like Sergio Agüero or the now prolific Edin Dzeko on the field.

There may be excitement over the possibilities that seem to lie before City, but the majority of the players must also be anxious about holding on to their place in the plans of the manager, Roberto Mancini. The practice sessions set a variety of challenges for defenders such as Lescott.

“You might come in one day more tired than the other, so you tend to think, ‘I don’t want to face Carlos [Tevez] because he’s going to run me a little bit more.’ But there are no easy players.” That last statement is no cliche.

Indeed, Mancini and his staff vary the challenge on the training ground. “I might be facing Edin [Dzeko] one day and Mario Balotelli the day after that and Carlos after that,” Lescott said. As if that were not enough, City will present him with another challenge since the centre-back Kolo Touré will soon have served his six-month ban for a failed drugs test and can return to action from 2 September.

The sentence passed on the Ivorian inevitably improved Lescott’s prospects and, for entirely different reasons, he has an opportunity with England since Rio Ferdinand, the preferred partner for John Terry, in the national team is deemed to be short of full fitness and was in condition to start only half of Manchester United’s Premier League matches last season.

Lescott, first of all, made the most of circumstances at City. “It’s unfortunate what happened to Kolo but I saw the opportunity was there and, thankfully, I took it.” His comments, all the same, do tend to disguise the fact that the club had seen sufficient worth in Lescott to buy him from £22m for Everton in 2009.

The funds available to City mean that there may be less need for defending, even if that obliges defenders to retain concentration in the prolonged, quiet spells. It is the harassed back four of the opposition who will seldom have a moment when their thoughts wander. Lescott almost sympathises with them, particularly since Dzeko’s feat in scoring four of the City goals in the 5-1 trouncing of Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. The Bosnian has made an impact after requiring time to settle following his arrival from Wolfsburg for £27m in January.

“It was hard coming in mid-season,” Lescott said. “The focus was on Carlos [Tevez], and rightly so. I’m sure now he’s not taking it for granted. He knows what he can do and he’s doing it now. Carlos was on the bench and didn’t come on [against Tottenham]. If Dzeko isn’t doing it one week, then like the rest of us, a worthy replacement will be in the team.”

That does not prevent Lescott from recognising the valuable qualities in Dzeko. “If you look at the goals he’s scored,” the defender said, “it’s every type. He poses a different threat – most strikers are smaller and agile, but he’s tall, big and agile.”

If Dzeko is now confirming his worth, Lescott himself appreciates that he has to demonstrate his own value for England. It was in his favour that he and Phil Jagielka had been together at Everton when Capello decided that they should be the combination for the away match with Switzerland, when the side ran up a 3-1 win last September.

Even so, there is nothing to be taken for granted with club or country. Lescott is well aware of the expectations surrounding City, particularly where winning the Premier League is concerned. “That has to be the aim,” he said. “It was the aim last season but it wasn’t to be. We feel we can win every game. Obviously that’s not going to happen but if we feel we can win the majority of games then I’m sure we’ll do well.” The demands are great with club and country, but Lescott can be glad he is invited to meet the challenge.

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