Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has told Stephen Ireland he is "an important player" for the club.
Ireland has found himself on the fringes under the Italian boss, making only 15 league starts this season, and he is again likely to be on the bench when City face Fulham at Craven Cottage. Ireland's lack of action has perplexed some fans who believe he should be in the side given his ability to unlock defences and score goals.
Mancini said: "I have a lot of respect for Stephen Ireland because he is a good player. In the week of the Chelsea game he had an injury. But now he has recovered and is ready to play. I have a number of options in midfield and Stephen is an important player for us."
With Wayne Bridge sidelined for a month after a hernia operation, Javier Garrido is favourite to step in at left back.
"Hopefully I will get my chance to be involved in the team," the Spaniard told www.mcfc. co.uk.
"I did not play for a while when Mark Hughes was here but when Roberto took charge he gave me an opportunity almost straight away.
"That gave me a lot of confidence and I think that showed through in my performances. "
City are chasing a top-four spot and face a Fulham side on the crest of a wave after an astonishing Europa League victory against Juventus. Garrido insists they need the victory.
He said: "They try and play good football and so do we, but they have definitely had the edge over the past three or four seasons.
"But there is no reason we can't win this game - we need a victory to keep the pressure on the teams around us."
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