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Pantilimon to retain FA Cup spot

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini insists goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon will be rewarded for his performances in this season's FA Cup with a starting place in the final against Wigan later this month.

• Blog: Dreaming of Wembley
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Pantilimon, 26, has played in each of City's domestic cup fixtures this season, with first choice Joe Hart rested for the FA Cup and Captial One Cup runs.

Mancini has considered sending Hart into the line-up for the penultimate match, but the Italian believes Pantilimon deserves to stand between the sticks at Wembley.

When asked if he may be tempted to pick Hart for the final, Mancini said: "I don't think so, we decided this at the start of the season. Pantilimon deserves to play.

"Joe won the FA Cup two years ago, he won the Premier League last year, he is the best keeper in England and I think he should be happy his second keeper can play in a big game.

"I know he wants to play but we decided at the start of the season it was important for Pantilimon to play in the two cups."

Critics believe the decision to sell striker Mario Balotelli to AC Milan in January contributed to City's failure to retain their title, but Mancini denies the Italy international could have provided some crucial goals in the latter stages of the season.

"For Mario it was better to go back to Italy and even with Mario I think the season would have been the same," Mancini added. "It is difficult when you consider why you don't score enough goals.

" Last year we scored 20 goals more than this season and we are missing them, it's too many. If we had scored another 10-20 goals we could have been fighting for the league."

Despite those claims, Mancini believes City must rely on their current strikers to improve next season rather than making new additions in the summer.

"We can't know which player can score 25 goals next year," he said. "If we knew that we would be magicians. We have good players and were unlucky this season. Now it is important we win the FA Cup and then try to improve our team."

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