x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Toure brothers are missed but are not missing the action

With Vincent Kompany's red card, Roberto Mancini will now all the more miss the services of Yaya and Kolo Toure.

Yaya Toure's absence leaves Manchester City short-handed at a crucial juncture of the season.
Yaya Toure's absence leaves Manchester City short-handed at a crucial juncture of the season.

At around 5.12pm on Sunday, just as Vincent Kompany, the Manchester City captain, was being sent off in the FA Cup third-round tie with rivals Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium, more than 5,000km away on a plush training pitch in Abu Dhabi, Kolo and Yaya Toure, surrounded by their Ivory Coast teammates, were laughing.

It was a sight that, had he been here to witness it, would have grated on the retina of Roberto Mancini, the brothers' coach at City.

The Italian had pleaded with Francois Zahoui, the Ivory Coast manager, to allow him to retain the two players for one extra day, but was denied.

Instead Zahoui spoke of the need for cohesion and a strong team spirit ahead of the Ivorians' African Cup of Nations campaign.

City have benefited greatly from Yaya Toure's form this season.

The 28 year old has been a driving force in midfield, the one player Mancini does not rotate, scoring six goals in his past 13 games.

Yet statistics, depending how you spin them, can substantiate any argument.

Even before Sunday's 3-2 defeat to United, City had managed just one win in their previous three games and had claimed only 10 points from a possible 18 in the league over the course of the past month. Early-season domination appears to have ebbed.

Mancini, who has bemoaned his multimillion pound squad's lack of depth, confirmed he will appeal the red card shown to Kompany, but if it is not rescinded - and with recent appeals by Queens Park Rangers' Joey Barton and Wolverhampton Wanderers' Nenad Milijas being rejected, it is unlikely - the City coach will find his side missing three of his international performers for the visit of high-flying Tottenham Hotspur next week.

Title challenges hinge on how clubs cope in the face of such adversity, and the match with Spurs on January 22 will be viewed by all at City as critical. All except the Toure brothers, that is.

The Ivorian pair will, on the same day, be preparing to take to the pitch to begin their African Cup of Nations campaign with lowly Sudan.

Unlike a light-training session in Abu Dhabi, the Elephants' match will be televised.

Mancini, should his side fail to secure the desired result, may want to avert his eyes.