Yaya Toure, Manchester City’s 22-goal midfielder, is set to return to the squad for the trip to Crystal Palace on Sunday.
City find themselves six points behind leaders Liverpool with two games in hand, meaning they are likely to have to win all of their remaining four games to stand any chance of overhauling Brendan Rodgers’ men. Toure’s return is a huge boost for manager Manuel Pellegrini who knows his side have no room for error between now and the season’s end.
David Silva is out with an ankle injury suffered in the win over West Brom, while Matija Nastasic, who has a mystery knee injury which has ruled him out for the majority of the season, and Jesus Navas are also out.
Speaking at his Carrington press conference, Pellegrini told reporters:
Injured we have David Silva, Jesus Navas and Nastasic continues with his injury. All the others are fit. David continues with the pain in his ankle, he is working he is improving.
Against Liverpool I think we played very well. I don’t always want to have different reasons for the result but it was a very special day for Liverpool. We lost 3-2 but I don’t think we played bad or deserved to lose.
Against Sunderland maybe we couldn’t recover for such an important game in three days but I think we played well in our last game against WBA.
With City facing an in-form Palace side followed by a tough trip to Everton, the return of the influential Ivorian could be key. He can dictate games with his power and pace, a unique talent that most sides find difficult to handle.
Silva's absence is likely to hurt them, but as former City captain Andy Morrison said on this week's edition of Blue Tuesday on BBC Radio, Palace shackled the Spaniard well in the fixture at the Etihad earlier in the season when Tony Pulis asked Joel Ward to a do a man-marking job on him.
With that in mind, it could be argued that Toure's return is more important. Palace are a side who match direct football with a high-tempo, physical approach, a situation that may suit Toure.
Pellegrini also refused to be drawn on rumours linking him with a move for Arsenal right-back Bacary Sagna. According to The Guardian, Pellegrini and City’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, have identified the Frenchman as the man to put pressure on Pablo Zabaleta next season.
Zabaleta has been largely unchallenged for the last two seasons, given Micah Richards’ injuries and poor form, and with City’s academy graduate set to leave, it’s the Arsenal man, available on a free transfer, who is emerging as the club’s top target.
But Pellegrini said: “I repeat exactly the same answer I said all year, I cannot talk about rumours or all the names that are coming here.”
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: @RobPollard_.