Sergio Aguero must feature at Stoke today if he is to figure in Manchester City's Champions League opener against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu on Tuesday.
The Argentina striker hopes to make his comeback after four weeks out with a knee injury and manager Roberto Mancini will make a late decisionon what part he could play.
"Sergio is not 100 per cent but his knee is OK," the Italian said. "Maybe he could be on the bench." Aguero was hurt in the opening exchanges of the 3-2 win over Southampton and was carried off in the 14th minute. Mancini remains annoyed that Aguero was forced to travel to Argentina to be assessed by the national team's physios, describing the Fifa regulation as "a stupid rule".
"If we have a player who is injured for two weeks it is better he stays here," he said. Nevertheless, he hopes that Aguero will return from his lay-off and long journey an improved player.
Aguero struck 30 times in his debut campaign in England. His 23 league goals included the title decider against Queens Park Rangers.
Said Mancini: "It is difficult to score more than 20 goals in your first season in the Premier League. This year if he is lucky with injuries I think he can score more goals."
Gareth Barry is another probable substitute at the Britannia Stadium. The England international had a hernia operation in the summer and is yet to make an appearance this season.
With Javi Garcia available to make his debut following his £16 million (Dh95.1m) move from Benfica, Mancini has two extra options in the midfield.
He also has a full complement of strikers with Mario Balotelli back in contention after laser eye surgery. "Now we have solved this problem, maybe he can see the goal better," Mancini said in jest.
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