Former Aston Villa captain Fabian Delph is set for a place on the bench as Manchester City travel to the Midlands on Sunday for new manager Rémi Garde’s first match in charge of the Villains.
Having recovered from a hamstring injury sustained on international duty against Switzerland in September, Delph was given a few minutes in the dying embers of City’s victorious clash with Sevilla in the Champions League, and now looks set for another cameo role against the club where he spent six years.
City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, also revealed that full-back Gaël Clichy will be included in the matchday squad following ankle issues, but confirmed that neither David Silva or Sergio Agüero would be fit for the bout against the bottom side in the Premier League.
After a spate of niggles to numerous first-team players, Pellegrini is hopeful of having a fully fit squad to return to after the international break next weekend and going into the home match with Liverpool.
“We hope that all of the players will have recovered after the break and that there will be no injuries,” said the Chilean.
“I hope that after the break we can rotate as we have to play a lot of games – you cannot win trophies with just 11 players.
“Maybe Clichy and Delph are not ready to start but they are to be on the bench.
“Clichy can play on both sides which is important as Zabaleta is injured. Silva is working – his ankle is not 100% fit. He tried last week to play a small-sided game but he couldn’t. I hope after these 15 days he will be okay.”
When asked about Delph’s impending contentious return to Villa Park, the former Real Madrid coach was blasé, proffering: “Maybe it’s the same as when we played against Sevilla with Jesus Navas.
“Fabian played at Villa for a long time but he’s a professional player and now plays with us. I know he wants to play as he’s had so many injuries.”
City will be facing Villa in Rémi Garde’s first Premier League match as boss, and while the threat of a new-manager bounce is one that will be a concern, Pellegrini was nonetheless confident in his side’s ability to secure another three points to cement the Citizens’ place at the top of the table going into the break.
“Always when you have a new manager, you have some reaction,” said Pellegrini. “They’re at the bottom, they have a new manager, so they have the motivation not to be relegated.”
Striker Wilfried Bony, who has averaged a goal or an assist every 101 minutes for City this season, has steadily found his feet, scoring five goals in his last six games for the club, and was firm in his assessment of the task at hand come Sunday.
“We are going there to win – we want to remain at the top of the table and we will work hard to stay there,” said the Ivorian.
“We gave a great performance against Sevilla and we want to do the same again when we play Aston Villa – I think it will be a different sort of game, but one we need to come away with three points from.
“A few of our injured players are coming back which is really good but we want everyone back, though it’s not always possible to have every player fit – that is football.”
Pellegrini was in agreement with Bony, praising his side’s mature display against Sevilla at the notoriously hostile Ramón Sánchez Pizjuan and challenging his player to produce once more in the West Midlands.
“I spoke with the players and we talked about doing what we did against Sevilla,” said the manager. “We can’t just think we can do the same this time unless we have the same concentration – it will be a tough game.”
Image courtesy of Manchester City FC via YouTube, with thanks.