x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Nastasic injury worries Pellegrini even as Manchester City win

Nervous wait for English Premier League club over extent of defender's injury following 1-0 triumph over Sunderland in Barclays Asia Cup.

Manchester City's Javi Garcia, left, fights for the ball.
Manchester City's Javi Garcia, left, fights for the ball.

Hong Kong // Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini conceded that the atrocious conditions were not to blame for the ankle injury that saw Matija Nastasic carted off on a stretcher in Hong Kong on Saturday night.

Nastastic suffered the injury during the second half of City's Barclays Asia Cup 1-0 triumph over Sunderland.

The Serbian looked in pain and Pellegrini now faces an anxious wait as the damage is assessed.

"The doctor has to see him tomorrow when we arrive back in Manchester," he said. "I am concerned, but it's better to wait.

"It wasn't the pitch though. He got a kick on his ankle, but it was just part of the game."

At least in Joleon Lescott, City have an obvious replacement should Nastasic be ruled out for any significant length of time.

They also have a trophy, now thanks to Edin Dzeko's early goal.

Of equal importance to Pellegrini, though, were the performances of newcomers Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, who are slowly getting used to their surroundings.

"I know Negredo very well," said Pellegrini. "When we brought him here we knew he was a successful player and in these two games he's demonstrated what he can do.

"Jesus is the same as Negredo. He gives our team a different option. He is very a difficult player [to play against]."

Just as he had done in the semi-final triumph over South China, Dzeko scored the only goal to give the Blues a deserved victory.

City were the better side and only two goal-line clearances from Craig Gardner kept the score down.

It has been a productive few days for Dzeko. Expected to be on his way out of Etihad Stadium this summer, the Bosnian remains and until reinforcements are brought in to compensate for the departure of Carlos Tevez and, last season, Mario Balotelli, he is destined to remain.

On Saturday night the former Wolfsburg man struck early. Yaya Toure created the opportunity with a flick-on intended for Pablo Zabaleta.

Wes Brown got there first, but the former Manchester United player could only turn the ball into the path of the onrushing Dzeko, who duly rammed home a brilliant half-volley which flew in off a post.

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio declared himself satisfied, despite the outcome, and said the pitch had not been quite as bad as he initially feared.

"The pitch was difficult, but it was also difficult for them, because they have fantastic ability," the Italian said.

"Thinking about it last night, I thought it would be a worse pitch.

"But they put a lot of sand in the middle and actually it wasn't that bad."

After rescuing the Black Cats from relegation last season, Di Canio has now had chance to make his mark properly. "Some players still don't know what I want from them exactly, but we still have a long time," he said.

"Even some top players are never going to change their mentality, but this process can be up and down.

"There is no way we are overtraining the players, though. Last year some of them under-trained."


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