Knee operation for Cole disrupts City's Cup plans

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The Independent Football

Manchester City's FA Cup hopes are in danger of being harmed by an "unbelievable" run of injuries - Andy Cole being the latest to be affected. Stuart Pearce's squad has been ravaged by fitness problems over the past three months but just as the manager was beginning to welcome back some leading players, more have been put on the sidelines.

Cole is ruled out for a month after being forced to undergo surgery on a knee ligament problem he picked up during Sunday's win over Charlton. The striker joins midfielder Claudio Reyna and defender Nedum Onuoha as definite absentees from Sunday's fifth-round tie with Aston Villa while, after almost two months on the sidelines, Ben Thatcher may lack the all-round fitness to play.

In addition, Pearce is also waiting for the results of a scan on the knee injury which ruled Sun Jihai out of the Charlton match and to see how Trevor Sinclair comes through a "cheekbone-straightening" procedure. The winger may be able to play wearing a protective mask against Villa.

"It seems to be the nature of how it has gone this season," Pearce said. "We have a lot of names on the injured board, then they clear off, then a new bus load arrive." Cole will sit out not only the Villa cup tie, but Premiership games with Sunderland, Liverpool and Portsmouth as City continue their two-pronged assault on a European slot.

The loss of his top scorer means Pearce will be forced to hand extra responsibility to his £6m signing Georgios Samaras, who scored his first goal for City against Charlton.

There is some good news for Pearce though, with Danny Mills on reserve-team duty last night after missing almost three months of the season with a fractured shin.

Providing he suffers no ill-effects from his return, Mills is optimistic about his chances of making the trip to Villa Park. "Hopefully, I will be fit for selection," said the 28-year-old. "Two-and-a-half months is a long time to not be involved."