x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Zabaleta returns to City fold

The Manchester City manager Mark Hughes is sure his Bolton counterpart Gary Megson can handle the pressure being piled on him.

Pablo Zabaleta will be back for Manchester City.
Pablo Zabaleta will be back for Manchester City.

The Manchester City manager Mark Hughes is sure his Bolton counterpart Gary Megson can handle the pressure being piled on him. Megson came under renewed attack as Bolton dropped into the relegation zone this week. Some pundits have even suggested the Bolton manager could be sacked if his side are beaten by City at the Reebok Stadium today.

While Hughes has concerns of his own as the Blues look to improve a poor return of only one win in six domestic away matches this term, he is also aware of the situation Megson finds himself in. But he does not feel his rival will be letting it get him down. "Gary has been in the game a long time," said Hughes. "He is thick-skinned enough to know it comes with the territory and he will be able to deal with it.

"I am sure he is just focusing on making sure his team is ready for the challenge of meeting us." Hughes is expected to make changes, with the £18million (Dh106.8m) forward Jo now fully recovered from a bout of tonsillitis and the full-back Pablo Zabaleta back from suspension. Zabaleta's presence will help provide some stability for a City defence who have found keeping clean sheets difficult this term, a task not made any easier by the number of changes that have had to be made.

Hughes said: "If you look at the teams with a good defensive record, more often than not it is because they have a settled back four." He added: "Defenders are like attackers, they get into a rhythm of play and develop an understanding with the people around them." With Zabaleta back, Hughes must decide whether to stick with Micah Richards at left-back or try another new combination. Either way, he is set to rein in City's attacking style in an effort to make them harder to beat.

"We have still been trying to play attacking football away from home," the former Wales boss reflected. "Maybe we have to temper that somewhat on occasions because we have played like a home side at times and allowed the team who are at home to play on the counter-attack. "It is a positive in that the opposition is respecting the ability and quality we have. But we have to be more adept at taking points from away games."

* PA Sport