ETIHAD STADIUM, MANCHESTER
With Manchester City set to face West Ham in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final on Wednesday, manager Manuel Pellegrini has confirmed that striker Stevan Jovetic is still absent from the squad and will play no part in the game.
Speaking at his press conference ahead of the match, Pellegrini told reporters:
Injuries for tomorrow is Jesus Navas has a little problem, just a precaution, a kick behind his knee but nothing important. Jovetic and Aguero are injured and Rodwell—all three cannot play tomorrow.
It is difficult to know [when Jovetic will return] but I suppose the same as Kun, during January.
Of course, for the player it is very bad news for him that he cannot play because he is a very important player. For me, we could have had one player more during [the last] six months and a very important one that was the best chance to replace Kun Aguero when Kun was injured.
But things happen and we must be optimistic for the future and suppose Stevan will play in the second half of the season.
It’s been an incredibly frustrating start to life as a City player for Jovetic. He’s started just one Premier League game, away at Stoke back in September, often looking set to come back in contention, only for another injury to prevent his return.
Hamstring and calf issues, as well as an illness that scuppered his chances of playing against Leicester in the Capital One Cup quarter-final, have led to rumours that Jovetic exaggerates injuries. Two appearances for Montenegro in October have certainly added fuel to the fire.
Indeed, this was put to Pellegrini prior to Saturday's FA Cup tie against Blackburn, and his response, as reported by Simon Mullock in the Daily Mirror, was interesting:
It is very difficult to know with Jovetic, but I believe what the player says and if he says he has a muscle problem and I’m absolutely sure he has a muscle problem.
We hope it was bad luck for the first part of the season and we can use him in the second half of the season because he is a very important player.
It’s impossible for the players to be 100 per cent for every game, but there are different degrees of injuries. I am optimistic.
At the end of the season, maybe I change my opinion. But at the moment, I continue trusting him.
The situation is leading to concern amongst the City fans who have likened Jovetic's situation to that of Valeri Bojinov, a Bulgarian forward signed by Sven Goran-Eriksson who promised so much but, due to a series of injuries, delivered very little.
Jovetic was one of the most sought-after young players in Europe when City signed him for £22 million during the summer, and the excitement surrounding the move was clear. He was a player with a reputation as being creative and skillful, with the capability to play as a withdrawn forward, or as an out-and-out striker.
In his brief appearances for City, both in pre-season and, in particular, his Capital One Cup performance against Wigan Athletic where he managed a rare start and two goals, he has shown glimpses of his ability. Two great feet, intelligence and vision—he clearly has the attributes to fit Pellegrini's system.
And with Aguero's recent injury he would most certainly have played a lead role in recent weeks. The Alvaro Negredo—Edin Dzeko pairing rarely looks like working, with both players too similar in terms of style.
Negredo and Dzeko occupy similar areas of the pitch, and often make the same run. They're not compatible, and a successful partnership between the two looks a long way off. Jovetic would have complemented either player, with his ability to drop deep and drift out wide.
However, he simply hasn't, for whatever reason, managed to get himself fit for any length of time. Pellegrini thinks he may finally be ready later this month, and City fans will be hoping it isn't another false dawn.
Capital One Cup semi-final
First Leg - Jan. 8: Manchester City vs. West Ham
Second Leg - Jan. 21: West Ham vs. Manchester City
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.
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.