Winning adds to pressure on Hughes

Mark Hughes has admitted the buck will stop with him if Manchester City falter after their flying start to the season.

Victory at Aston Villa on Monday would complete a remarkable first couple of months for the Blues, who are already enjoying their best start since 1961.

Five wins from their opening six games is more remarkable given the huge change the club has undergone over the past two transfer windows as Hughes has sought to put his own imprint on Eastlands.

In addition, City have been without a number of key players, including the £32.5m record signing Robinho, plus Roque Santa Cruz and Michael Johnson, who made their first appearances of the campaign against West Ham United earlier this week.

So, with Martin Petrov catching the eye on his first start and Vincent Kompany only a couple of weeks away from a comeback after a summer toe operation, Hughes suddenly has big choices to make. And the Welshman knows he will have no one to blame but himself if he gets it wrong.

"I am going to have lots of options but it is a good problem to have," he said. "It is exciting because people can see what we are capable of. We have good players playing well and good players still to come back. Now it is down to me to make sure I pick the right options for the right opposition."

Hughes will be hoping to have another significant option at Villa too. After serving a three-match ban for his attack on Robin van Persie, which he continues to insist was not premeditated as his former team-mate claimed, Emmanuel Adebayor is currently free to face Martin O'Neill's side.

However, the Togo striker faces an improper conduct charge tomorrow in relation to his controversial goal celebration against his old club at Eastlands earlier this month, which received widespread condemnation, including from Greater Manchester police.

City will use the evidence of Gary Neville's goal celebration against them the following week, which did not even bring a charge against the Manchester United defender, as evidence to back up Adebayor's claim he did nothing wrong.

A suspension is possible though, even if Hughes does not believe it is warranted. "We hope Manu won't get any more matches," he said. "We don't think he should."

If Adebayor is available it would arguably leave Hughes to select from the strongest pool of forward players in the Premier League. It is hardly a position that hints at a sudden collapse for a club intent on smashing the top-four cartel.

And even the notoriously pragmatic Hughes admits there is still more to come from his team. "We are in decent shape and things seem to be falling into place," he said. "We are playing well – and with confidence.

"I am absolutely convinced we will produce even higher quality football because of the quality we already have and the quality that will be available to us in the future."

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