City's Brazilians sent on a crash course in English

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With his Brazilian contingent acclimatised to Manchester's weather and restaurants, Mark Hughes yesterday described the challenges of a more fundamental integration into English football.

Manchester City's established Brazilian Elano has done most to help Robinho and Jo adjust and the presence of Manchester United's own Brazilians has also helped the process. "I think they all come across each other. I think there is a local restaurant they frequent," Hughes said, alluding to Pau Brasil in central Manchester. But Hughes has always regretted not developing a knowledge of Spanish during his Barcelona days and considers it imperative for his two new strikers to learn from his experience. Both were sitting English tests yesterday.

"I think it is important especially off the pitch," the City manager said. "They can converse on the field because football is a universal language. My one regret is that I didn't grasp the language when I was abroad. It would have helped my situation."

One of the beneficiaries will be Hughes's young home-grown striker Daniel Sturridge, whose close training-ground relationship with Robinho will be limited for as long as they cannot converse. The two are likely to play up front for City at Middlesbrough tonight, with Jo recovering from tonsillitis and Ched Evans struggling with a knee injury, and it has not escaped Hughes's attention that Robinho has spotted what a talent the 19-year-old has.

"Whenever you see a player who wants to work hard in training, who wants to get better, senior players have a lot of time for those players," Hughes said. "So Robinho has noticed that [in Sturridge] and you see little movements in games that you think that they will be able to replicate in the future at senior level." The pair linked excellently for two of Robinho's three goals on Sunday against Stoke City which took his league tally to six, but Hughes does not want Sturridge to get ahead of himself. "We can't get carried away. He's had half a game when he has had an impact," Hughes said. However, the player's influence at times under Sven-Goran Eriksson, the previous manager, show why Chelsea were once interested in him.

"[Sturridge] has been part of the team already," Hughes added. "He started against West Ham so I've shown that trust in him. That's the reason they wear the shirt and the likes of Daniel and Ched have shown me they have the ability to play in the Premier League so I would have no qualms about starting either of them."

The City manager, whose side are looking to avenge the 8-1 defeat inflicted on them at the Riverside Stadium in May in the dying days of Eriksson's era, declared Stephen Ireland to be his "best player from the start of the season" yesterday and disclosed that, despite the Republic of Ireland's desire to have him back, Giovanni Trapattoni has not been in touch over the issue. "Stephen's quite clear in his mind that it is not an option for him," said Hughes, who expects Richard Dunne to be fit despite a chest injury. "It may change in the future but that will be his decision."