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Hunger is back at Barca

Barcelona
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By ESPN Staff

Man City confirm contract talks with Ireland

Manchester City boss Stuart Pearce has confirmed he has opened contract talks with Republic of Ireland midfielder Stephen Ireland.

The 20-year-old has broken back into the Blues line-up on a regular basis over the past few weeks and has become the creative force in a side otherwise badly lacking in invention.

Ireland is also excelling on the international stage, scoring the winner for his country in San Marino on Wednesday night.

And his efforts are set to be rewarded with an improved deal, even though his present contract still has 18 months to run.

'I spoke with Stephen three weeks ago and offered him a new contract even though he has a lengthy one already,' he said.

'It is a credit to what he has done this season that we feel it is the right time to talk to him.

'In situations like this, the ball is always in the player's court. If he is doing well, he will get rewarded.'

Providing Ireland returns fully fit, he will be in the City side to face Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Saturday evening.

Pearce does have injury concerns though, with Ousmane Dabo struggling to shake off an Achilles strain, while Andreas Isaksson may be handed his first City start as Nicky Weaver is still troubled by the hip injury that forced him out of last week's home defeat to Reading.

The Blues boss also confirmed long-term casualties Trevor Sinclair and Paul Dickov will be out for at least two more weeks, while Nedum Onuoha's hamstring problem will sideline him for a minimum six weeks.