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SWP set to give Hughes headache

Shaun Wright Phillips 0809

Shaun Wright Phillips 0809

Mark Hughes is hoping for the selection headache all top managers welcome as his casualty list threatens to melt away in the heat of City's spring offensive to snatch a Europa League place.

Pablo Zabaleta is expected to have overcome his hamstring problem by next week, and defender Micah Richards, who limped out of the 2-1 victory at Everton last Saturday, is poised to resume training tomorrow.

But the best news on the manager's injury bulletin is that Shaun Wright-Phillips is heading back to fitness as his damaged ankle heals  - although that could present Hughes with a dilemma after Elano's fine displays in his absence.

The Brazil star, who has emphasised his desire to remain at the City of Manchester Stadium, has been one of the Blues' outstanding performers in the three successive victories that have lifted supporters' spirits.

Elano limped off at Goodison in the 89th minute after his sun-soaked efforts alongside compatriot Robinho again won the fans' approval, but SWP is the bubbling heartbeat of any Blues side and cries out for inclusion.

City's manager, facing his old club Blackburn next, said: "Elano was fit to train again on Tuesday. Shaun did some field-based work on Monday and we need to see how he is, but we are hopeful that he will be an option.

"It's a case of seeing if there is any reaction to anything that he has done. Pablo Zabaleta is looking positive, but Blackburn looks like it might be a game too soon for him.
 
"Ela's done very well on that right-hand side - it's a role he knows well from playing many times there for Brazil, so there's an understanding of the role.

"But there is also a willingness to work hard and track back. He was at left-back at one point, he has been criticised at times but he works hard for the team.

"When everyone is fit and well, I feel the squad is a lot stronger than it was at the start of the season. We have also got the benefit now of the hard work we have put in all year, and we want to finish on a high."

Luckless striker Danny Sturridge has suffered a new blow. Hughes said: "Danny has had a problem on his hip. The aim was to give him a fitness test on Saturday but he woke up and couldn't do that, so he didn't travel to Everton and he has not trained this week."

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Ireland? just priceless says skipper

Stephen Ireland 0809

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Hughes switch makes 'em sit up

Nigel De Jong Robinho Craig Bellamy Stephen Ireland 0809

Robinho grabbed the lion's share of headlines in the Blues' long-awaited 2-1 victory at Everton, but it was a crucial tweak to the team shape that underpinned the first win away from home in England for eight months.