Manchester City midfield magician David Silva hobbled off the pitch just 12 minutes into Spain's World Cup qualifier against France on Tuesday. Silva's status for Saturday's clash at The Hawthorns with West Bromwich Albion is at best uncertain.
This is not great news for Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, whose side will follow up Saturday's Premier League match with the Baggies by traveling to Amsterdam to face Ajax four days later in City's third Champions League Group D fixture.
In past years, losing a player of Silva's caliber for a game with West Brom would not have seemed so dire. Just last season, City took four of six possible points from West Brom with two clean sheets from a scoreless draw away and a 4-0 thrashing at the Etihad.
But West Brom is off to a heady start to this Premier League season with fourteen points from seven matches, good for a three-way tie for fourth (though they are sixth on goal differential) with Everton and Tottenham Hotspur. Incidentally, West Brom already has a win over Everton and a tie with Spurs at White Hart Lane on its ledger this season.
West Brom's only loss of this season, 3-0 to Fulham at Craven Cottage, was also the only time they were held off the scoreboard to date. This creates a rather toxic combination for Mancini, since City had conceded in all of its Premier League matches before finally recording a shutout of Sunderland before the international break. City's leaky defense and West Brom's consistent attack suggest that City will need to score more than once to take all three points.
And they will probably have to do so without the industry and art of Silva, who despite an indifferent start to the season is still City's best passer in the forward half. City's hopes of retaining the Premier League crown and of progressing in Champions League play hinge at least in part on a return to form from Silva.
Initial reports do not suggest a long-term injury. But hamstring problems are trouble even when they can be "played through." Plus, they linger. For at least the next two crucial games, then, City will probably have to create offense through avenues other than Silva's through-balls and one-twos.
What this likely means is that Yaya Toure will have to emphasize his attacking game, which is fine as long as he can trust the likes of James Milner, Gareth Barry and Javi Garcia (if he is fit) to cover midfield during his forays forward.
No one will weep for City, whose enviable roster depth is in place for just this sort of exigency. But if goals are suddenly at a premium for City (again) in coming days, Silva's absence will have a lot to do with it.