Mancini: Bellamy is my friend

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Roberto Mancini insists Craig Bellamy is his "friend" even though he left the Welsh striker out of his first Manchester City starting line-up.

Bellamy was introduced as a second-half substitute at Eastlands as City recorded a 2-0 win over Stoke in their first game since Mancini controversially replaced the sacked Mark Hughes.

"Bellamy is my friend," said Mancini. "There is no problem. I spoke with him two days ago. He understood when I told him he wasn't starting."

He added after Saturday's win: "We have two games in three days and I need all the players at 100%. Today we played Robinho. It is possible we will play Craig at Wolves on Monday."

The City fans certainly delivered their verdict, affording Bellamy a rapturous reception as he replaced the ineffective Robinho, who started up front alongside Carlos Tevez and failed to make a major impact.

Not that Mancini was joining in the condemnation. "I was not disappointed with Robinho's performance," he insisted.

"He played well. But after 65 minutes he was tired and I needed to make a change."

Mancini will be forced to rely on the same diminutive strikeforce at Molineux because Roque Santa Cruz, Benjani and Emmanuel Adebayor, who is going off on African Nations Cup duty with Togo anyway, are all sidelined through injury.

The lack of a physical threat probably explained why City struggled to impose themselves on Stoke.

Mancini was indebted to two brilliant saves from Shay Given, the first to deny Tuncay when the game was still scoreless, the second from a ferocious James Beattie effort as Stoke were enjoying one of their better spells.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Emmanuel Adebayor
Stoke City
Manchester City
Carlos Tevez
Mark Hughes
Craig Bellamy
Premier League
Roque Santa Cruz
Shay Given
James Beattie
Mark Hughes
Wolverhampton Wanderers

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