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By ESPN Staff
Jan 2, 2008

Sven set to protect struggling Elano

Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has vowed not to risk the long-term fitness of star man Elano as Manchester City look to recover their early season momentum. The Brazilian was one of the central figures in City's superb start to the campaign but, much like his club, his performances have faded somewhat. Dropped to the bench for last week's draw with Blackburn, Elano could find himself back among the substitutes as Eriksson's side look to improve a disappointing record of just one win in their last seven matches by beating Newcastle at St James' Park tonight. Eriksson retains total faith in Elano's ability but he feels the former Shakhtar Donetsk man is paying the price for a punishing autumn travelling schedule, combined by a minor injury he picked up playing for City duty a couple of months ago. 'We must be careful with Elano,' said Eriksson. 'He is not 100% fit and has not been for some time, which is a real pity for us. 'He had to travel a lot for internationals and then he got injured, so we will have to monitor him carefully. 'He is an important player for us and we will not take any risks with him at all.' A fit and firing Elano would certainly present Newcastle's ailing defence with a major problem. Without an away win since the opening day victory at West Ham, City know a success on Tyneside would really pile the pressure on Magpies boss Sam Allardyce ahead of a must-win FA Cup tie at Stoke. Given the pressure he is currently under, it seems amazing to think that just 18 months ago, Allardyce was one of the front-runners to replace Eriksson as England coach. Despite spending only half a season at St James' Park, Allardyce has failed to win over the Geordie faithful, with either his signings or style of football, which is a mile away from the free-flowing stuff Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson were noted for. Yet Eriksson has no doubt Allardyce will not allow himself to be distracted by the flak that has been flying in his direction recently. 'Every time you have a team or a club which is not doing exactly what the fans and media expect, the pressure is there,' said Eriksson. 'I think we have to live with that. 'I don't know how much pressure Sam Allardyce is under but I do know he has a very thick skin and I don't think anyone will break him down. 'Everyone knows he is a very good manager and if they give him time, I know he will change things for Newcastle. 'I am quite sure he is the right man for that big job.'