Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has told James Milner he could still have a key role to play in the remaining weeks of the season.
Milner, 25, has suddenly found himself marginalised as the club bid for a top-four finish and a place in the Champions League for the first time. He has not featured in the last two games after being replaced in the 59th minute by David Silva in the 3-0 drubbing by Liverpool, to his obvious annoyance.
However, Milner could have a part to play in the home match against West Ham on Sunday, and Mancini said: "James is disappointed he has not played in the last two games, but I trust James. He is an incredible midfielder."
He added: "I think he can improve a lot, but for this we have time next year. Now we have another five games and the final and he will be an important player in this time."
West Ham have picked up only 13 points from a possible 51 on the road and lost to Chelsea last weekend, but Mancini will not be taking Avram Grant's side lightly.
He wants City to forget about the FA Cup final and keep Tottenham at arm's length in a bid to make Europe's top club competition.
They could move to within to two points of Arsenal should they win their game in hand, but Mancini is refusing to look too far ahead.
He said: "Every game is difficult. We have five league matches to go and need to be at our maximum in every one of them.
"We must take it step by step. Now we have West Ham and our focus will be only on that game.
"I saw them against Chelsea and for 45-60 minutes they played very well. We need to play very well. That is very important."
Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.