Ranieri: Eriksson can lift City into Big Four if given chance

Claudio Ranieri has leapt to the defence of embattled Manchester City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson in Hong Kong - and the Italian insists the Swede can lift the Blues into the Barclays Premier League's top four.

Speculation has been rife over Eriksson's future, with City owner Thaksin Shinawatra conducting a review of the club and reportedly lining up a replacement.

Juventus manager Ranieri was the victim of similar rumours while Chelsea boss before departing Stamford Bridge in June 2004 despite three years remaining on
his contract.

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Claudio Ranieri

Support: Juventus manager Claudio Ranieri had similar problem at Chelsea and has backs Eriksson at Man City.

But the 56-year-old insists Eriksson could lift City into the top four if given time at Eastlands.

"Nobody can take a team and immediately bring first position," said Ranieri.

"I think this year, another year and a third year - I think Sven would get the team in the first four.

"The first year it is very difficult to immediately field a good team.

"The Premiership is very hard and there are a lot of good teams."

Eriksson was in a relaxed mood as City promoted the second leg of their post-season tour of Asia.

The former England boss remained silent on the topic of his future, but reflected on a "very good year" last season as the Blues finished ninth in the Premier League and secured a UEFA Cup berth via the fair play table.

"I think Manchester City as a club - the players, the coaches, everybody - we had a good year, a very good year," said Eriksson.

  "The start of the season was fantastic, maybe too good to be true.

  "Second half, we were not as good as the first half.

  "Looking totally, I think it was a very good year for Manchester City."

When asked to make a prediction on tonight's Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea, Eriksson forecast penalties, a fate his England
side succumbed to in successive tournaments in 2004 and 2006.

It's impossible to predict what is going to happen tonight because they are two extremely good teams," added Eriksson.

"But 1-1 after 90 minutes, 2-2 after extra time and I don't know who is going to win on penalties."

Manchester City play a South China Invitational XI tomorrow before Juventus meet South China in an exhibition event.

Eriksson announced that Thaksin has promised to donate City's match fee of around £40,000 to the emergency fund for the victims of last week's earthquake in Sichuan, China.

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