Matija Nastasic, Manchester City’s outstanding 20-year-old defender, will be sidelined for up to six weeks with an ankle injury suffered during the Barclays Asia Trophy final against Sunderland last month.
The Serbian, who was one of City’s best performers last season after his switch from Fiorentina, is now certain to miss the opening weeks of the new campaign, leaving City short of central defenders.
Along with Kolo Toure’s departure to Liverpool, it leaves City with just Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott and Dedryck Boyata available as recognised central defenders for the opening matches of the new season. Don’t be surprised if they sign another defender before the window closes.
Micah Richards can play at centre-back when needed, but he’s a far better right-back, with the attacking side of his game nullified when he moves inside. Javi Garcia is another who has experience in defence, but his disastrous performance there against Southampton still gives City fans nightmares.
Nastasic's injury is a massive blow to City’s preparations. Arriving last summer as a teenager with just one season of Serie A football behind him, he showed maturity way beyond his years, with a series of brilliant performances which almost immediately cemented his place as Kompany’s defensive partner.
However, news of his injury provides an opportunity for Lescott to reassert his position at the club after losing his place to Nastasic last season. During City’s title winning campaign of 2011/12, Lescott partnered Kompany in what was a formidable centre-back pairing. It was only Nastasic’s peerless form of last season which saw Lescott dropped.
With Lescott keen to be part of England’s World Cup campaign, he will be eager to win back his starting place, and he now has an opportunity to impress his new manager, Manuel Pellegrini.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity