The way their luck is going, by the time Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur meet for what could, like last season, be a Champions League place eliminator, they will not have a fit defender between them.
While William Gallas was collapsing in London yesterday, Jerome Boateng was having his knee examined in Manchester. The diagnosis was grim: the German, who was injured while training with his national team in midweek, needs an operation that is likely to keep him out for seven weeks.
City play Spurs at Eastlands on 10 May but Roberto Mancini suggested Boateng would not be available until 14 May when City either host Stoke in the Premier League, or play in the FA Cup final. With Kolo Touré suspended pending the hearing into his positive drugs test, Micah Richards suffering from a hamstring tear, and Wayne Bridge and Nedum Onuoha out on loan, City are approaching le ossa nude, as Mancini might say were he a follower of Harry Redknapp's lexicon.
Richards hopes to be back for the FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United on 16 April but Mancini has little choice but to rush Pablo Zabaleta back into action against Sunderland tomorrow. The defender returned this week from Argentina where his father is seriously ill following a car crash.
"Boateng will have surgery in the next two or three days," Mancini said yesterday. "Maybe he will be fit for the last two games. But we are trying to get Richards fit for the semi-final. I don't know if it is possible but we hope." Such is the player's desire to make the derby semi he is considering installing an oxygen tent in his house to speed recovery.
With the inclusion of Zabaleta, Mancini can still field an experienced all-international back four. However, one member of it, Joleon Lescott, is unlikely to be looking forward to facing Asamoah Gyan who bamboozled him before scoring Ghana's equaliser at Wembley on Tuesday.
"We have got three ecstatic Ghanaians here, one in particular – who is normally larger than life – burst into the building today," said Sunderland manager Steve Bruce yesterday. He added: "It's the first time when England have conceded a goal I have jumped up for the opposition, and how great it was when I saw four players [on the pitch at Wembley] involved from Sunderland [Ghana's Gyan, John Mensah and Sulley Muntari and, for England, Danny Welbeck]. Everywhere I looked there was a Sunderland player [on international duty], so it shows the improvement here."
One of those was Marcos Angeleri, who has been fined after suggesting to a South American radio station that he was not being picked by Bruce because he is not English.
"I have dealt with it like I always deal with it, in my office," said Bruce. "He pleads innocence; whether he is innocent or not, I'm not really interested. It's been said and the damage has been done, as far as I am concerned. He has been fined. That's the end of it."Reuse content