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The former Manchester United striker has returned to the club after his own self-imposed exile, but Roberto Mancini's men confirm they have moved on confidently without him

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By Greg Stobart at Etihad Stadium

Carlos Tevez may be back in the fold at Manchester City, but it was fitting that he was down in London while the club’s other three strikers scored the goals to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to five points over Manchester United.

After all, Tevez has been AWOL for most of the last five months and the rest of the squad have done perfectly well without him.

Roberto Mancini, the City manager, sees the value in bringing Tevez back into the squad but the Argentine will have one heck of a fight if he is to win a place in the Italian’s first-choice starting line-up.

City beat a toothless Blackburn side 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening, their 18th home league win in a row and 13th out of 13 this season.

And while all the headlines have been generated by the situation surrounding Tevez in the last week, it was three men who have been around throughout the campaign who made the difference.

Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko cost City a total of £89 million but they are delivering this season in a far more valuable currency as the club seek their first league title since 1968: goals.
CITY'S THREE MUSKETEERS
Player

Aguero
Balotelli
Dzeko


Starts


29
16
20



Sub apps

8
8
7


Goals

21
13
13


Between them, the trio have now netted 39 times in the league this season, more than the majority of sides have managed in total. With 16 goals to his name, Aguero has led from the front on his debut season in England, justifying the price tag and lessening the blow - if there has been one - of Tevez’s extended absence.

For all the fireworks - on and off the pitch - Balotelli has matured this season and against Blackburn produced yet another mature performance.

It was little surprise that the Italian striker was the man to break the deadlock against Rovers on the half-hour mark, expertly turning the ball in from Kolarov’s cross. He celebrated by revealing a T-shirt that said ‘Rafaella Ti Amo’ – a message to girlfriend Rafaella Fico that he loved her. Balotelli himself would have been feeling plenty of love from the City supporters.

Aguero smashed home from close range after the break to double the advantage before Dzeko sealed the points, heading home the third shortly after coming on as a late substitute.

It was a statement from the three strikers of how City have moved on from Tevez, who last year was the club’s captain and talisman, their most crucial player.

Tevez’s 53 goals in 74 starts are now a distant memory. The form this season of forwards who do want to play for the club raises the question of whether Mancini is right to welcome the volatile former United man back into the squad.

Mancini will know that, whatever happens between now and May, Tevez will fully expect to leave the Etihad Stadium for a new club, probably in Italy.

I wrote on Wednesday that Mancini should avoid an embarrassing loss of face and tell Tevez where to shove his insincere apology.

Saturday’s game provided another reason. Or rather, three reasons: Aguero, Balotelli and Dzeko.

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