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Toure keeping his cool in heat of battle

Kolo Toure has delivered a “don't worry, be happy” message to his Manchester City team-mates as they face their Champions League destiny.

City must beat Aston Villa in what Roberto Mancini describes as a semi-final at Eastlands today to set up a do-or-die battle with top-four favourites Tottenham on Wednesday.

Considering the prize which is at stake for a club whose only previous excursion into European football's elite competition lasted just one two-legged tie in 1968, it is little wonder there is a sense of apprehension amongst the City faithful.

Toure claims there is no point being constrained by fear. As a naturally laid-back character himself, the Blues skipper is calling for the same approach to bring the best out of themselves.

“You know how the best way to cope with pressure like this? Just relax and enjoy the moment,” said Toure.

“Football is such a wonderful job that you need to enjoy every minute and if there is pressure on you, just go out with a smile and be happy because I believe that will allow you to play your normal game and deliver the goods.

“It is not every season that you have the opportunity to challenge for Champions League football.

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“We are in a fantastic position and it's up to us how we deal with it. Ultimately, it comes down to how much we really want to finish fourth.”

With the relegation picture now clear, barring a mathematical miracle for Hull and the title race now between Chelsea and Manchester United, that all-important fourth place is the issue still causing most debate.

After heading affairs prior to the Manchester derby a couple of weeks ago, City have slumped to sixth in a four-cornered fight which also includes Liverpool.

Villa know victory today is essential to their hopes, with Tottenham's more favourable run-in giving them the slight edge.

As someone with vast Champions League experience to fall back on from his Arsenal days, Toure knows what the competition can bring to a club and he is determined not to let this chance pass him by.

“I have been in this kind of situation many times so the task ahead doesn't faze me,” he said.

“It is great for football that four clubs are challenging for one position going into the last fortnight of the campaign. We just need to make sure it's us who are smiling on the final day.

“It proves the Premier League is the best in the world and personally, there's nothing more I love than a challenge because it brings out the best in me.”

Today’s game could be vital to the futures of so many City stars, not least striker Carlos Tevez, who has indicated he will be moving on if the Blues cannot offer Champions League football.

Mancini insists he is staying, and he has pointed out his preference to end City's trophy drought compared to winning a title with Real Madrid or Barcelona.

“Every player wants to play in the Champions League but when you win with a team that has won nothing for 15 years it is important,” he said.

“You can be at Real Madrid or Barcelona, but they win every year. I prefer to win with Manchester City. Here you change the history of the club.”


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