Carlos Tevez's peace treaty with Manchester City is doing wonders for the goal returns of Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko and Sergio Agüero. The three strikers threatened by El Apache being on the active list again have clocked up five strikes between them since his long-awaited mea culpa a week ago.
The 4-0 shellacking of Porto in the Europa League on Wednesday in which Dzeko and Agüero each converted (Balotelli was an unused reserve) was followed by a Saturday afternoon cruise to a 3-0 victory, with all of the trio adding to their season's tally.
Agüero now has 16 in the league, Dzeko 13 and Balotelli 10 – a total of 39 in the team's 67 so far. Tevez has zero, in all competitions. Whether he can force himself back into the starting XI should not faze his colleagues according to David Platt, the assistant manager.
He said: "They've had a threat to their place all season, the strikers. We have [had] three strikers effectively the majority of the season [and] we've played with two sometimes, or only one, depending on the game. When we've got everybody healthy there are people going in the stand that could get into most teams in the Premier League and we have a rotation of the squad. As and when Carlos is back he'll add another number to that."
Bolton Wanderers' visit here next Saturday may be too early for Tevez to pull the sky-blue shirt on again for the first time since 21 September but the trip to Swansea City the following weekend is being mentioned. "That's not too far away, it could be a little bit longer than that, we're working on the training pitch with him, he's joining in the sessions, he does a little bit of work afterward," Platt said.
"There'll be a couple of 11-v-11 games that we can get into him, like a pre-season almost, that's what he's going through. It's difficult to say [exactly when] – there's no point in putting a time on it. Because if we turn round now and say: 'He'll be fit for Swansea,' then the week before we'll have to answer seven days of Carlos Tevez questions leading up to it."
After Balotelli had greeted his 30th‑minute opener by revealing a message to his girlfriend, "Raffaella ti amo" (Raffaella I love you), on the latest in his line of home designed T-shirts, Agüero profited from a Paul Robinson fumble after the break to slot home. Against a dire Blackburn Rovers side – they waited until the closing moments of the contest to force a Joe Hart save – Dzeko collected his goal on 81 minutes after entering as a substitute, and he said of the Tevez factor: "It's not pressure, it's just that he can bring quality to the team. We are all one team trying to play together and it's good that we scored three, because in the end goal difference could be the key."
As a breed, are strikers competitive? "Sometimes in training but that is normal," he said. "It's good you have so many quality players around you, and that they are all getting better. I am enjoying it like everyone else because we are on top of the best league in the world and hope to stay there until the last game."
For Steve Kean this defeat meant a drop back into the relegation zone and he said of Chris Samba's move to Anzhi Makhachkala of Russia for around £9m: "The offer we received was substantial. But the pivotal point was that Chris didn't want to apologise, didn't want to withdraw his [transfer] request and was very adamant that he wanted to leave and that played a big part of it as well."
It will be all the harder for Rovers to survive without their erstwhile captain.