Adebayor suspension hits City hard
Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor will miss the club's entire list of fixtures in March, with his three-match ban for his dismissal at Stoke automatically extended to four because of a prior suspension for violent conduct in the game against Arsenal in September.
City are unlikely to appeal Steve Bennett's decision to send off Adebayor for throwing an arm back at Ryan Shawcross in the 3-1 FA Cup defeat. Manager Roberto Mancini's pill is slightly sweetened by the expected arrival of Carlos Tevez in Manchester today. But given City's struggle to replicate the goalscoring form which characterised the Mark Hughes era – they have managed three goals in four games – Adebayor's presence was badly needed. He will miss the matches with Chelsea, Sunderland, Fulham and Wigan Athletic, games City must win, with their run-in looking more difficult than Liverpool's.
Mancini must also address the Wayne Bridge/John Terry issue ahead of City's potentially combustible trip to Stamford Bridge tomorrow. He is expected to speak to Bridge to ascertain whether he is mentally ready to take part. There are grounds for leaving Bridge out and deploying Javier Garrido instead, though the Italian has grounds to feel traumatised himself. Comfortably his worst game for City came in the 6-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge in October 2007.
Mancini may not have been entirely prepared for Bridge's decision to pull out of the England set-up yesterday. There had been a sense around Eastlands that Bridge was ready to bury the hatchet where Terry is concerned. Ironically, Bridge's decision will prevent him demonstrating the point he always said he had come to Eastlands to prove: that he is as good as Ashley Cole, whose ankle break seemed set to provide Bridge with a World Cup opening.
"I had opportunities to play at Chelsea and I thought I played well. I don't know [why it never worked out]. Maybe Luiz Felipe [Scolari] thinks that Ashley [Cole] is better than me," Bridge said when he arrived at City.
Mancini insisted that "now our focus must be on Chelsea," as he reflected on his side's cup exit. "We have another 12 or 13 games and Saturday is an important one." His loss of Adebayor comes just as the Togolese seemed to be recovering from the trauma of a bus shooting incident before the African Nations Cup.
Pablo Zabaleta sounded a required note of optimism yesterday. "We have a great chance to fight for fourth position," he said. "The race for fourth is very difficult but we have got a great chance to be there."
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