Injuries bite as Man City launches United pursuit
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Manchester City striker Sergio Agüero (L) has yet to capture his form of last year, having scored six goals in 14 Premier League games so far this season. REUTERS photoManchester City’s bid to reel in Premier League leader Manchester United has been jeopardized by injuries to key players as they prepare to open their Christmas campaign at home to Reading on Dec. 22.
Six points off the pace after its 3-2 loss in the Manchester derby on Dec. 9, the champion could be missing captain Vincent Kompany and midfielder Samir Nasri for the Royals’ visit to the Etihad Stadium.
Kompany limped out of the derby with a groin injury, forcing him to miss last weekend’s 3-1 win at Newcastle United, and he is a major doubt for the Reading game.
Nasri picked up a similar injury in the game at St James’ Park and looks set to be out for two weeks, potentially ruling him out of City’s entire festive programme.
To compound matters for coach Roberto Mancini, central midfielder Jack Rodwell has revealed that he will probably be out of action until the beginning of 2013 due to a hamstring injury that he sustained in October.
“I’ve just had a little bit of a setback with my hamstring injury,” Rodwell told the club website. “It will probably be another few weeks, so I’m looking into the new year.”
Injuries aside, Mancini will expect his side to take all three points at home to a Reading team who sank to the foot of the table last weekend and were thrashed 5-2 at home by Arsenal on Dec. 17.
City can close to within three points of top spot if it beats Reading, with United not in action until its lunchtime trip to Swansea City on Dec. 23.
The festive season is a pivotal period in the Premier League, with teams facing four games in the space of only 12 days.
Arsenal kicks off the weekend program at home to third-bottom Wigan Athletic on Dec. 22, when victory would provisionally propel the Gunners up to third place.
Buoyed by the rout at Reading, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was given further reason for optimism in mid-week when Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Ramsey all agreed new contracts. The Frenchman faces demands from supporters to improve his squad in the January transfer window, but he says the performance at Reading proves that the team is on the right track.
“What is important is this team develops in the way we want to play. I have seen some interesting aspects on Monday night at Reading,” he said. “Let’s see how far this team can go. If we can add one or two exceptional players, we will do it.”
Tottenham Hotspur quietly stole into the top four last weekend and it can put pressure on third-place Chelsea, who hosts Aston Villa on Dec. 23, with victory at home to Stoke City.
Gareth Bale and Michael Dawson are both expected to return from injury for Spurs.
Everton, who has slipped to sixth after winning just two of its last 11 fixtures, visits West Ham United, while West Bromwich Albion will also hope to buck a run of disappointing results when it hosts Norwich.
Having finally secured a first win of the campaign at home to Fulham last weekend, Queens Park Rangers bids to maintain its unbeaten record under new manager Harry Redknapp when it visits Newcastle United.
Liverpool, stunned 3-1 at home by Villa last weekend, hosts Fulham, while Southampton tackles fellow relegation candidates Sunderland at St Mary’s.