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Hughes aims to plead his case

Hughes at Barnsley preseason friendly

Hughes at Barnsley preseason friendly

Mark Hughes will put on his diplomatic hat in a bid to prevent City losing skipper Kolo Toure and striker Emmanuel Adebayor as early as Boxing Day on African Nations Cup duty.

Ivory Coast defender Toure and Togo star Adebayor were always earmarked for the elite tournament in Angola, which kicks off on January 10 with the final scheduled for January 31.

But it has become clear that City - along with rivals Chelsea and Arsenal - could be hit even harder under FIFA rules that allow countries to call up their players two weeks before.

Kolo and Manu, already due to miss both legs of a possible Carling Cup semi-final if the Blues beat Arsenal on Wednesday, could end up missing ten City games should their teams do well.

Manager Hughes is loath to lose his African stars for the Boxing Day clash with Stoke and the trip to Wolves two days later, preferring their absence to start with the FA Cup third-round.

City's boss said: "There's the suggestion of a preparation period that has to be factored in, and we are aware of that - there will be communications with the associations involved regarding the release dates for British-based players.

"A lot of other leagues have breaks for the festive period that allow their players to meet up at the earlier time. We have a crucial period of the season coming up and hopefully that will be taken into account."

Both Ivory Coast and Togo are fancied to reach the latter stages of the tournament, leaving Hughes relieved that he has quality cover in both positions for the New Year push.  

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