x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Yaya Toure ready to defend in the battle of Britannia

Yaya Toure has, so far, made the transition from the Primera Liga to the Premier League appear seamless.

Yaya Toure in full flight for Manchester City.
Yaya Toure in full flight for Manchester City.

Yaya Toure has, so far, made the transition from the Primera Liga to the Premier League appear seamless by combining the measured approach to midfield play he harnessed in Spain with the all-action style that is a prerequisite of the modern player in the top flight of English football.

Toure is likely to need to draw on all his recently acquired battling qualities this evening when Manchester City play Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium, one of the most imposing citadels in the league.

The former Barcelona midfielder's assertion that the leagues are "quite different" is likely to be graphically illustrated today when City are subjected to Stoke's withering aerial assault.

"It takes a little time to get used to," Toure, who spent three years in Spain, said. "But there are very skilful players in both leagues, and the top teams are used to playing each other from European games, so it is not so strange. People say the English game is faster, and yes, it is very fast, but it is not so slow in Spain either."

The match today is likely to be played at a furious pace. Toure, who has spent most of his career as a midfield enforcer, has been transformed by Roberto Mancini this season into a player who provides the conduit between midfield and attack.

"I have played in this position before, but yes, I am at the moment getting forward more often," Toure said. "I think it is working quite well, and I have scored a few goals by getting into the penalty area. We have a strong midfield, and have been able to use this to our advantage in difficult games, against Chelsea for example. I am enjoying the challenge of playing this way."

Rather than unpick the Stoke defence today, however, he is likely to be asked to use his hulking frame to help defend the series of set-pieces City will be subjected to. The inclement weather in England is set to add to what will be a searching examination of City's title credentials.

"I don't mind the cold, it was colder in Ukraine," said Toure, who spent two years with Metalurh Donesk. "I'm in the most important league, the No 1 league in the world, with many big clubs, not just one or two like you get in Spain or France. It's very exciting. We can see that the club want to improve, and everything is getting bigger and better - facilities, staff, players. It's something we're all happy to be a part of, and hope we can help the Club achieve success."

Reports of City's outlook this season in the English media of have oscillated wildly between being in crisis one week and then title contenders the next.

"I think we are doing well," Toure said. "We have had some very good performances so far, we have beaten Chelsea and Liverpool and drawn with United. We are also doing well in away games, having beaten West Bromwich Albion, Fulham, Blackpool, Wigan. So we are showing that we are a good team and we just have to keep on going."

kaffleck@thenational.ae

7pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 3