Manchester City will travel to Amsterdam this morning for their crucial Champions League match without their Spanish midfielder David Silva, with manager Roberto Mancini having selection dilemmas in defence and up front.
Brian Kidd had floated the possibility of Silva's involvement in the Amsterdam Arena despite a hamstring injury picked up on international duty. "I think they are looking at him thinking he might be in with a chance of playing on Wednesday against Ajax," City's assistant manager said yesterday morning ahead of further tests.
But Silva will instead go back to Spain for recovery work, and at the least will also miss Saturday's game with Swansea City.
City's creativity will be severely hampered by Silva's absence. James Milner and Samir Nasri are likely to be chosen in wide areas. Milner has not played one minute in either of City's Champions League games so far this season while Nasri was replaced after 37 minutes and 57 minutes against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
In both of their group games so far City have been rather outplayed and only the heroics of Joe Hart, left, heroics and Mario Balotelli's injury-time penalty salvaged a point against Dortmund in Manchester earlier this month.
If Mancini is to take City out of Group D and into the knockout stages, he will probably need six points from the two games against the Dutch champions. Maicon and Javi Garcia, both of whom started and struggled in Madrid, are also out through injury and have not travelled either. Mancini will have to choose between Pablo Zabaleta and Micah Richards at right-back, while he may pick Joleon Lescott ahead of Matija Nastasic at centre-half for the first time in Europe this season.
Edin Dzeko is City's top scorer so far this season with six goals, despite starting just three of City's 12 games in all competitions. Carlos Tevez and Balotelli started the last two games together, including at West Bromwich, which Dzeko won with two late goals from the bench. His good form may pressure Mancini into starting him more often.