City's injury misery mounts

By Mark Burton
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The Independent Football

Back in May, City missed out on a place in the Uefa Cup because Robbie Fowler failed to convert a penalty. Fowler will not be at risk of repeating that miss when City kick off their Premiership campaign on Saturday at home to West Bromwich. He is certain to miss the match because of a back problem and he could be joined on the sidelines by a host of players.

Richard Dunne is ruled out by an ankle problem and Sylvain Distin, Ben Thatcher and Antoine Sibierski all missed yesterday's 3-1 victory over Olympiakos, the champions of Greece. If that trio are ruled out, too, then Stuart Pearce, City's manager, will not be a happy man.

The defenders Distin and Thatcher have groin injuries, which will complicate Pearce's defensive arrangements. He may even be forced to seek a new signing to see him through, as groin injuries are notorious for recurring.

Olympiakos took the lead yesterday through Yaya Touré as they dominated the first-half, but not for the first time the name Wright-Phillips was prominent as City fought back to win. Shaun has moved on but brother Bradley stepped into his role as hero by scoring twice after coming on as a substitute. It is a headache Pearce could do without and took some of the gloss off an encouraging second-half display at Eastlands, which saw Bradley Wright-Phillips take over the headline grabbing antics of now-departed half-brother Shaun, netting twice after his arrival as substitute.

Darius Vassell equalised midway through the second half with a neat lob after being set up by Andy Cole. Wright-Phillips then glanced in Stephen Ireland's cross before collecting a pass 25 yards out, beating two men and firing in City's third.

Charlton did not fare so well in their outing against Greek opposition, losing 3-1 to AEK Athens, but Fulham beat Panionios 3-1 to restore an edge to the Premiership over the Greek league.

Tottenham threw their new signing, Edgar Davids, into their friendly match against Porto after 60 minutes, but it was Jermain Defoe who caught the eye in front of more than 36,000 at White Hart Lane. The England striker scored both goals in a 2-0 victory after Davids had fired a shot over the bar.

Defoe opened the scoring after 72 minutes when he collected Michael Carrick's pass and scored with a lob. He was then set up by a fine pass by Teemu Tainio, the Finn who has had an impressive pre-season, and cracked in the second.

There is no more time for friendly matches for Championship sides and the last of them kick off their season today when Millwall visit Leeds. For Leeds anything less than promotion will be seen as a failure, while for Millwall survival may be as much as they can hope for after a troubled summer.

But there should not be any trouble at Elland Road. Leeds have banned Millwall supporters from the ground, which could prove inspirational to Colin Lee's Lions.