They may be the richest club in the world but Manchester City could have just 16 senior players available for tonight's Europa League last-32 second leg against Aris Salonika. Roberto Mancini yesterday confirmed that goalkeeper Shay Given will miss three months with a shoulder problem he sustained in the warm-up before last week's goalless draw in Greece.
The Manchester City manager will also be without Micah Richards and James Milner, who have picked up calf and hamstring injuries, for this evening's match, with Adam Johnson facing another two months out with an ankle injury and Mancini not knowing when Nigel de Jong will be back from his own ankle problem.
It was hardly a problem Mancini can have envisaged as he brought in half a dozen players last summer but even though youngster David Gonzalez can be recalled from a loan spell at Leeds as goalkeeping cover, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz and Wayne Bridge all left on loan at the turn of the year.
They face 11 more games to grind out a Champions League place, and can expect as many as 11 more matches if they get through tonight – they are likely to face Dynamo Kiev in the last 16 – and progress to the finals of the Europa League and FA Cup.
"It's a big problem because this month will be very important for us," Mancini said. "When you play through to 20 March with one game every three days it's very difficult but we have 16 players and it will be important that we don't pick up any more injuries."
For all the issues he is currently dealing with – Mancini refused to comment on quotes from agent Kia Joorabchian claiming Carlos Tevez would welcome a move to Corinthians – the Italian maintains that this time next year his squad will be strong enough to cope with the demands of the Champions League.
He has been a keen observer of the European progress of United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham and his faith in his group – as well as the fact that he reached the final with Sampdoria in their first European Cup campaign in 1992 – gives him confidence.
"Every year you can improve," he said. "At this moment we are looking to finish second, third, even first, even though that's difficult, but we want to be in a Champions League position and try to win something.
"Next year it could be different maybe because we can improve the team. We need to improve because it's clear we are not like Barça, Madrid, Milan or Inter. They are teams that have played in the Champions League for a long time.
"We have big possibilities for the future here. This is a strong club. But there is a lot of work needs doing first."