Mark Hughes is mulling over his options to replace the suspended Pablo Zabaleta for Monday night’s Newcastle game.
The Argentinean defender is banned for the next three Barclays Premier League fixtures after being shown the red card in the recent defeat to Liverpool. England Under 21 international Nedum Onuoha would be one option – but he is still getting back to full fitness after recent knee and thigh injuries, as the City boss explains.
“Nedum’s been training this week so we will have a look at how he is. He’s obviously not had any football for a while so we will have to be careful with him because he has had a number of injuries of late.
“We’ve got options, ideally we would have preferred to have had Pablo available for selection, but that’s not an option that’s open to me. We just have to make sure that the team is balanced and solid at the back, because we’ll need to be away from home.”
Moving Micah Richards to right back could be another way of replacing Zabaleta, but Hughes is a big fan of the partnership that he has forged with Blues skipper Richard Dunne.
“Dunne’s a big performer for us, both in stature and influence,” he continues. “He & Micah are a big physical presence at the back and they do a lot of work that affects the tempo of the team. Sometimes that’s not recognised or acknowledged.
“As a partnership, they are doing exceptionally well, they have the physical attributes to make an impact on the opposition, and they are solid when they need to be. They will get stretched at times, that happens with all teams at times, given the way we are playing at the moment they may get exposed because of the nature of our attacking play. But they are vital for what we do.”