The Football Association has waived the final three weeks of Kolo Touré's training ban to enable him to regain fitness ahead of the conclusion of his enforced six-month absence for taking an illegal substance.
An FA tribunal ruled in May that the Manchester City defender should be banned from playing and training with City until 2 September as punishment after taking his wife's dietary tablets and City had expected that the two or three weeks it would take for the Ivorian to return to match fitness would deprive them of his services until late next month.
But Touré has started training with his team-mates already. The decision to allow him to return at least 20 days earlier than the FA's regulatory commission hearing had stipulated means he will possibly be available immediately after next month's international break and in contention for City's fourth Premier League match – at home to Wigan.
Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand, who served an eight-month ban in 2003 for failing to attend a drugs test, expressed surprise at what he saw as the leniency of Touré's six-month ban, backdated to the start of Touré's provisional suspension on 2 March. After a seven-hour meeting on 26 May, the commission was satisfied that he did not intend to enhance sporting performance.
This news offers some relief to manager Roberto Mancini, who has not bought the established centre-half he believes his side need for the new campaign. Phil Jones, a player admired at the Etihad Stadium for his versatility as a defender and midfielder, has since headed to United. Stefan Savic, the £6m arrival from Partizan Belgrade, is considered a player for the future.
Mancini is expected to start £38m signing Sergio Aguero on the bench tonight as City begin their Premier League campaign at home to Swansea City, with Carlos Tevez unlikely to play even a substitute's role until next Sunday at Bolton.
City continue their pursuit of Arsenal's Samir Nasri although the deal remained incomplete last night, with the structure of payments for the £22m midfielder the only stumbling block. Nasri is expected to sign a £165,000 a week, five-year contract possibly before tonight's game.
Manchester City (probable; 4-2-3-1): Hart; Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; De Jong, Barry; Silva, Y Touré , Balotelli; Dzeko.
Swansea City (probable; 4-3-3): Vorm; Rangel, Caulker, Williams, Tate; Britton, Allen, Agustien; Dyer, Sinclair, GrahamReuse content