Preview: Manchester City v Sunderland

City return to Premier League action on Sunday with a point to prove following the defeat to Chelsea. The two week break has been a welcome one, with several players getting the chance to recover some freshness.

Hopefully Carlos Tevez and Adam Johnson will be fit to face the Wearsiders. Yaya Toure also skipped international duty to regain his fitness. Italian manager Cesare Prandelli kindly elected not to select Mario Balotelli after his red card against Dynamo Kiev.

Elsewhere, David Silva and Joleon Lescott only made substitute appearances for their countries, while Gareth Barry and James Milner just played the one game for England. With one game a week until the fixture against Spurs on Tuesday 10 May, there’s a realistic hope of the team getting back to their best form.

Roberto Mancini:

“I think that now we can play one time a week and we have all the players we have a good chance.

“We have the same target now as at the start of the season. Champions League and a cup final. We could do both, why not?”

The international fixtures weren’t all good news with Micah Richards picking up a hamstring injury and being ruled out for 4-6 weeks. This is a blow and the team will miss his powerful presence on the right flank.

It remains to be seen whether Jerome Boateng’s knee injury will require surgery and bring a premature end to his season. Hopefully not as it would be good to see the German make a contribution during the run-in.

Defensively, the good news is the return of Pablo Zabaleta from his father’s bedside. Whether he’s fully match-fit has to be questionable, but at least with Pablo we can be confident his mind will be focussed on the game for the 90 minutes.

The focus of Mario Balotelli’s mind is far harder to fathom, but with the manager again showing his faith in the pre-match press conference, it will be no surprise to see Mario handed another chance in the starting line-up. Let’s hope for a Mario style response with a couple of goals.

Of equal interest will be seeing how Sunderland’s talented striker, Asamoah Gyan, fairs against Lescott. The England centre-back took some stick in the media following the Ghanaian’s goal at Wembley. The Premier League can be a different type of game to an international friendly, and one to which Joleon is better suited. Hopefully he can gain revenge by keeping Gyan quiet.

Sunderland are going well this season, and will be a test. It’s one that Mancini needs to pass if we’re to get back on track in our bid for a Champions League place. With the Europa League out of the way, the team need to get their best form back. A bit of sparkle in the feet of Silva, Tevez or Balotelli could be enough.

Blue Days line-up (4-2-3-1):

Zabaleta – Kompany – Lescott – Kolarov
de Jong – Milner
A Johnson – Y Toure – Silva

Prediction: 3-1 to City.

Verdict: Chelsea 2 Manchester City 0
Player ratings: Manchester City v Sunderland

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