Belfast Telegraph

Bridge will play for England, says Mancini

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini expects Wayne Bridge to answer England's World Cup call.

With Ashley Cole ruled out for three months after breaking his ankle at Everton on Wednesday, Bridge is now first in line to replace the Chelsea left-back in next month's friendly with Egypt and possibly the World Cup itself, if Cole's recovery does not go as planned.

That has raised inevitable questions about Bridge's ability to play alongside deposed captain John Terry, given the recent furore over the pair's private lives. However, Mancini does not see a problem.

“He never told me that he wouldn't play for England,” said the Italian. “The national team is important. I have not spoken to him but I think, if he is picked, he will play.”

It already seems clear from Fabio Capello's actions that the England coach is not likely to plead with Bridge for him to turn up ahead of the Egypt game on March 3, the final warm-up before a provisional squad is named in May.

While Mancini has obviously spent time with the former Chelsea player and is able to assess his mood, the City boss is equally nonplussed as to why Bridge might consider turning his country down.

“He is committed to playing for England,” stressed Mancini.

“It is important for any player to play at the World Cup. It is important for their career, especially if they can play in the first XI.”

Of more immediate importance to Mancini is the fact Bridge is only two matches into his recovery from a knee injury sustained against his old club in December.

“Wayne is a good man,” said Mancini.

“But he has only just recovered and it still maybe at around 60%.”

Meanwhile, Mancini has likened Manchester City new boy Adam Johnson to Ryan Giggs.

City swooped to land Johnson in an £8million deal with Middlesbrough on deadline day and already the 22-year-old has made a massive impression at Eastlands.

The England Under-21 star followed up his eye-catching debut at Hull by collecting man-of-the-match honours in the midweek win over Bolton.

And while Johnson cannot play in today’s FA Cup fifth round tie against Stoke because he featured in Boro's defeat to City earlier in the competition, Mancini cannot wait to have him back on Tuesday for the Premier League re-match with Tony Pulis' men, having paid him the highest compliment.

“Johnson is a great player,” he said. “If he continues like he is at the moment he could get into the national team.

“I remember Ryan Giggs when he was young and the way he moved. Johnson is the same player.

“If he keeps working hard he has a good chance for the future.”

With Johnson out and Craig Bellamy sidelined until next weekend's top-four clash with Liverpool by a nagging knee injury, Martin Petrov could be set for a recall.

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