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Mancini: We're still in the race

Roberto Mancini insists Manchester City are still firmly in the title race after the champions closed the gap on leaders Manchester United to seven points with a crucial 2-0 win at Arsenal.

Mancini's side couldn't afford to leave north London empty-handed on Sunday after United moved 10 points clear with a 2-1 victory over Liverpool earlier in the day. And they took the points, ending a wait of nearly 38 years for a league win at Arsenal in the process, thanks to first half goals from James Milner and Edin Dzeko after Gunners defender Laurent Koscielny was sent off for a professional foul on Dzeko, who missed the resulting penalty,according to FIFA.com.

City still have a significant amount of work to do to overhaul United, but boss Mancini believes the memory of last season's dramatic title triumph will convince his players they can catch their bitter rivals. When City lost at Arsenal in April last year their title hopes looked in tatters as they trailed United by eight points with just six games remaining. But they reeled in United and beat QPR with two stoppage-time goals on the final day of the season to clinch the title.

Faced with a similar deficit but this time with nearly half the season still to play, Mancini sees no reason to panic, especially since his team have won five of their last six league games."United are really strong and in this moment they are playing very well, but the season is long. It is important for us to be close to them at the end," Mancini said.

"We had some pressure (to win at Arsenal), but seven, eight or nine points doesn't change much. It is difficult to emulate last season but sometimes it can happen. I don't think we deserve to be seven points behind, but we are there and we need to play well. We have to keep strong if we want to have another chance."

While City still harbour hopes of a successful end to the season, Arsenal are facing a stressful struggle just to finish in the top four. Arsene Wenger's team are six points behind fourth placed Tottenham in the race to qualify for the UEFA Champions League and have a tricky trip to Chelsea next weekend after a midweek FA Cup replay against Swansea.

With Mikel Arteta facing three weeks on the sidelines with a calf strain and Koscielny now suspended, Wenger's players are in for a stern examination of their character. "We started too timid and didn't have enough confidence or authority," said the Frenchman.

"When you play at home in a game like that you have to dictate it and we didn't, especially defensively. It is frustrating because after that the team showed great heart and gave everything."

Wenger believes the negativity shown by many Arsenal fans after eight years without a trophy makes his already-nervous players even more anxious. "We are a bit too nervous to play in a serene way at home. I don't know if it is linked with that (the crowd) but it doesn't help," Wenger said.

Although Arsenal are clearly struggling at present, they finished third from an equally unpromising position last season. "We are in there of course and we have to fight until the end of the season," Wenger added.

Klopp: Dortmund spurred on Bayern

Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp believes his team prompted Bayern Munich's blistering first half of the season. Bayern raced into a nine-point lead at the midway stage of the Bundesliga season and cruised into the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League and quarter-finals of the DFB-Pokal, where they will face Dortmund next month.

That form has followed two trophyless seasons in which Dortmund have won successive league titles. "We have been winding Bayern up for two years," Klopp said. "We have really charged them up.

"The new approach they have taken with a new director of sport (Matthias Sammer) and their transfer activities also have a bit to do with us. You could say we have been pulling their elastic for two years, and all they had to do was release themselves from it."

After back-to-back title victories, Dortmund go into the second half of the season with a 12-point deficit to make up on the Bavarians and aware that they are really fighting for a top-three finish and a guaranteed place in the Champions League next season.

"We just want to achieve something outstanding once again," Klopp told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "If they (Bayern) don't shoot themselves in the foot now, then there is no taking the title away from them this season."

Syrian Athletes Support Political Program to Solve Crisis in Syria

DAMASCUS, (ST) – Syria's athletes stressed their support to the political program proposed by President Bashar al-Assad to solve the crisis in Syria.

"the political program ensures the unity and the independence of the Syrian decision, "affirmed the General Sports Federation

The GSF stated that President al-Assad speech highlighted the importance of opening the door of dialogue before all sides to reach a solution to the crisis in Syria without any foreign interference.

"President al-Assad stressed going ahead with fighting terrorism and standing in the face of the plots aimed at dividing Syria," concluded the statement said.

 

Athlete Hisham al-Raqsheh Assassinated

DAMASCUS, (ST)- An armed terrorist group on Saturday assassinated player  Hisham al-Raqsheh in Housh Blas area in Damascus.

An official source told SANA reporter that "a terrorist group shot dead  al-Raqsheh while he was on his way back home.

Al-Raqsheh ,former coach  the Syrian national  walking team,came second e in the 2010 West Asia Championship .He also  captured  the Republic's Championship (10 km race walking in 2002).

The late champion represented Syria in several sports events  plus international marathon tournaments.

Painful' to see Robin van Persie leading Manchester United to the title, admits Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger admits it is depressing to see former Arsenal star Robin van Persie firing Manchester United towards the Premier League title.

United beat rivals Manchester City to the signature of the Dutchman last summer in a deal worth £24m summer,according to Skysport.

His 20 goals so far have helped United move seven points clear of City at the top of the table and 18 ahead of Arsenal, leaving Wenger in no doubt as to his importance in deciding the destination of this year's trophy.

"It is painful to see Manchester United so far in front of us," Wenger said.

"Robin is one of the best strikers in the world and you know he will score goals for them. He is at the peak of his game."

"You know when you sell Robin van Persie to Manchester United, that (they lead the league) will be the case.

"Robin is one of the best strikers in the world and you know he will score goals for them. He is at the peak of his game.

"He is more patient today than he was five or six years ago, now he can stay up front.

"Sometimes in games you don't see him for 20 minutes, but he knows he will get a chance at some stage and that he will use it."

Wenger rued his own side's now remote chance of glory but said victory over City on Sunday would be a priceless confidence boost.

"A win against City would improve the confidence of the team," he added.

"The title looks unlikely but we do not have to give up. We want to fight to come closer and then hope we still have a chance."