Richards has been in fine form for the Premier League leaders this season but has not been able to force his way back into national team boss Capello's thinking. The 23-year-old right-back won the last of 12 caps against France a year ago and was overlooked in favour of Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker for this month's friendlies against Spain and Sweden. Mancini said: "Micah is young. I think in the last year he has improved a lot as a player but I think he needs to improve more because he has good quality. "Sometimes Micah is too strong - he thinks he can play at 50%. "But if Micah played 100%, for me, he becomes one of the top full-backs in Europe." Richards, who was first capped by England in November 2006, is an impressive attacking force but has sometimes been criticised for his defensive abilities and positional sense. Mancini accepts there are faults, but believes Richards has improved considerably since his last conversation with countryman Capello about the player earlier this year and expects him to get even better. Mancini said: "His body is on the pitch but his mind is at home, sometimes! This he can improve. He should remember to pick up his brain! "But I say this because I love Micah as a guy, as a player. "I don't think he can lose time because he has everything - he is strong, quick, strong in the air, he can play in a different position. "We [Capello and Mancini] spoke about Micah about six months ago. It is my opinion that Micah has improved a lot in the last year but he can improve more. "For Capello, I don't think it is easy to choose between a lot of good players. "It is clear that some should stay at home for the European Championship but I hope Micah can get into the national team." City return to action after the latest international break tomorrow as Newcastle visit the Etihad Stadium. The match brings together the last two unbeaten sides in the competition and pits City, the side with the most prolific attack, against that with the meanest defence. City have struck a remarkable 39 in the process of opening up a five-point lead at the top of the table in 11 games, while third-placed Newcastle have conceded just eight. The match is followed by a Champions League trip to Napoli on Tuesday and another tough domestic assignment at Liverpool next weekend. Mancini believes his side are now entering an important phase in their campaign. He said: "I think the crucial moment will be now - December, January, these two months. "I think it will be very hard because we also play every three days if we win against Arsenal in the Carling Cup. "We will probably lose two players for the African Nations Cup - Kolo and Yaya (Toure). They are very important players. "Tomorrow is a big game because it is the first game. "It is important we restart the Barclays Premier League very well. "We are at the top and we want to stay there. If we start well tomorrow I think it will give us confidence for Naples." City were installed as title favourites after their remarkable 6-1 thrashing of rivals and champions Manchester United in last month's derby at Old Trafford. That could bring with it added pressure, but Mancini does not feel his players are affected. "I don't think there is pressure," he said. "They are confident in this moment. "But if you want to continue to stay at the top, we need to continue to work very well. The season is long, it is hard. "We have been lucky because we haven't had a big problem with injuries. "It is important to have this luck for the future, to work well, to be confident. "Of course we will have a difficult moment, it is impossible in one year not to have any problems, but it is important to continue to believe in ourselves."