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Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini admits he is delighted to have some of his key players back on duty as the Premier League leaders head to Stoke on Saturday.
City's shrinking injury list boosts Pellegrini

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini admits he is delighted to have some of his key players back on duty as the Premier League leaders head to Stoke on Saturday.

City's injury list is gradually clearing up with goalkeeper Joe Hart and striker Sergio Aguero doubtful for the trip to the Britannia Stadium, but in line to play against Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Champions League on Tuesday.

And, significantly for City's hopes of maintaining their position at the top of the Premier League, Spain midfielder David Silva and Ivory Coast forward Wilfried Bony proved they are back to full fitness by helping 

City thrash Hull to reach the League Cup semi-finals in midweek.

Silva started his first game since early October after recovering from an ankle injury, while Bony scored on his first start since the beginning of November following hamstring trouble.

That duo's return is well-timed as City look to pull clear of second placed Leicester, who are only behind the leaders on goal difference.

"It was very important for David to have 80 minutes after a long injury," Pellegrini said.

"It was also important for Bony to play for 65 minutes after he only recovered from a muscle injury a few days before Saturday.

"It is great for all the players to be involved in all competitions."

City's squad strength is likely to be tested if they are to sustain a challenge for four trophies, including the FA 

Cup when they start their challenge in January.

- Outstanding -

They will also need to keep their players in form, although Kevin de Bruyne will do well to maintain the outstanding start he has enjoyed to his City career since signing from Wolfsburg at the end of the August.

The Belgium star's two goals against Hull means De Bruyne has contributed nine goals and eight assists since his club record £55 million ($83 million) transfer.

"He's a top player. He's someone that gets in and around the box and creates and scores goals. Every team needs a player like that," said team-mate Raheem Sterling.

"It's most important. That's what big players do and we're happy to have him at this football club.

"But if you saw him in Germany, the number of goals he was involved in, it was obvious he had quality.

"It's always a test for players to come to England, play regularly and contribute but that's what he's done. Credit to him, he's been incredible."

Stoke are in high spirits after beating Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 in midweek to reach the semi-finals of the League Cup for the first time since 1972.

"I think as a team we want to carry on and get the best result we can from the match on Saturday," Stoke defender Philipp Wollscheid said.

"We as a team are working well defensive wise. We could do better offensive-wise, but that is not just about the forwards, it is the whole team. This is where we have to improve.

"We shouldn't think now about the next opponent in the last four. We should think about the match we have just played; what was good, and what was not so good.

"I think we did okay so we can talk about this and then carry on to prepare for the game against Manchester City on Saturday.

"Of course we know they've got a strong squad. It will be difficult, but not impossible."

Source: Alec Kennedy/ AFP
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