x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Treated like a machine? Fine by me, says City's Lescott

Manchester City host Fulham today in the midst of a fixture pile-up, while Joe Cole has the chance to impress Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish on the trip to former club West Ham United.

Patrick Vieira, left, and Joleon Lescott training at Manchester City's Carrington complex. Andrew Yates / AFP
Patrick Vieira, left, and Joleon Lescott training at Manchester City's Carrington complex. Andrew Yates / AFP

A drawback of Manchester City's emergence to challenge for trophies, both in England and Europe, is the increased workload on a squad already depleted by injuries to key players.

Already committed to two games a week until the next international break at the end of March, City's problems will become even more acute should they draw their FA Cup fifth-round match with Aston Villa on Wednesday.

The replay would be wedged between a late Saturday Premier League encounter with Wigan and a 4,500km round trip to the Ukraine for a Europa League last-16 encounter with Dynamo Kiev.

Roberto Mancini, City's manager, has reacted angrily to the prospect of such a schedule, claiming the football authorities are treating players "like machines".

However, the centre-back Joleon Lescott said that City's players are unfazed by the schedule. The defender is more accustomed to the demands placed upon English footballers than the Italian Mancini and accepts a backlog of games is the price to be paid for success.

"We want to win every game in every competition. We recognise that is not going to happen but we still have to try," he said

"Of course it is possible to keep pushing for the top four and win trophies. Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal do that every year and we don't look at ourselves as any different to those clubs.

"If you are at the top or going to be one of the best, you will reach semi-finals and quarter-finals of competitions, which just means more games. It is going to be a long season but that is how we want it."

For Lescott, 27, today's home game against Fulham has particular significance as it marks the first return to Eastlands of the manager who brought him to City.

Mark Hughes spent £22 million (Dh130.2m) luring Lescott from Everton in 2009. "It will be strange," Lescott said. "I owe him a lot. But there will be no friends when the whistle blows."

Today's early Premier League kick off gives Joe Cole another opportunity to ignite his Liverpool career against his first club, West Ham United. The midfielder has endured a frustrating season at Anfield after a free transfer from Chelsea last summer.

Due to a knee problem, Cole had to wait until Thursday's Europa League clash with Sparta Prague for his first start under Kenny Dalglish, who took over from Roy Hodgson in January but he lasted the full 90 minutes and could continue at Upton Park.

Said Dalglish: "Joe Cole coming back is a real bonus for us.

"There is not much wrong with his fitness, he just needs match practice. It's the first opportunity I've had to have him in the squad and he's a great asset to have."

West Ham v Liverpool, 5.30pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 4

Man City v Fulham, 7pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 3 & 5