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Manchester City's Flying Full-Backs Face Injury Worry

Daniel Morehead@@danny11mContributor IIIDecember 9, 2011

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29:  Aleksandar Kolarov of Manchester City celebrates after scoring the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Etihad Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

To the outsider, the loss of Aleksandar Kolarov may not seem like a huge blow to the ambitions of Manchester City. With just five league appearances this season—one of which as a substitute—the Serbian left-back has played second fiddle to new signing Gael Clichy. With Clichy starting 10 times in the Barclays Premier League, the Frenchman has settled instantly into City life and a new style of play.

When we look at the European stats, however, we start to see just how vital this rotation of the full-backs has become to Manchester City's campaign for honours.

Kolarov has started nine cup games this season, twice coming on as a substitute, whilst Clichy has been limited to just two starts in cup competitions, with a further two substitute appearances.

Roberto Mancini has imposed a possession-based, intricate style of play, which flies in the face of the typical English 4-4-2. Using David Silva/Mario Balotelli/Samir Nasri as floating destructive forces rather than out and out wide-men means the centre of the pitch can become condensed, especially if the opposition has packed the midfield in an effort to negate City's attacking capabilities.

The wide-attacking responsibilities, therefore, depend almost entirely on the full-backs. Micah Richards in particular has prospered under this attacking licence, with the 'Richards for England' campaign gathering pace with every passing goal or assist.

On the opposite flank, Kolarov and Clichy have not received the plaudits their impressive work-rate deserves. Question marks were placed over the positional ability of Gael Clichy from his time at Arsenal, but after joining the strongest defence of the 2010/11 campaign he has suffered little problems; bedding in quickly and effectively.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19:  Micah Richards of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at the City of Manchester Stadium on November 19, 2011 in
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

With a full season settling into a new league, country and club, Aleksandar Kolarov has finally began to show the form which made Jose Mourinho an admirer during his time in the Eternal City at Lazio.

With the injury problems and inconsistent form of last season behind him, the Serbian's deadly left foot became a potent weapon, vitally saving a point with a trademark free kick versus Napoli in the inaugural Champions League game at The Etihad Stadium.

Kolarov has been ruled out of action for a minimum of three weeks due to the groin injury sustained during the opening 30 minutes of Manchester City's Carling Cup victory at the Emirates.  There is a worry that the more realistic return date is closer to six weeks, ruling him out of the hectic December/January schedule.

Micah Richards missed Wednesday night's 2-0 Champions League Group Stage win over Bayern Munich and is not expected to be fit for the trip to Stamford Bridge.

With the holiday season now underway, matches are coming thick and fast. The sooner all bodies are fit and available, the better.

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