(Reuters) – Manchester City keeper Joe Hart could make his return from injury against Stoke City, but manager Manuel Pellegrini will still be without seven players when the Premier League leaders visit the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
City’s top scorer Sergio Aguero is likely to miss Saturday’s game with a foot injury, but Pellegrini is hopeful the striker will be fit to face Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Hart has not played for City since injuring his hamstring against Juventus in the Champions League on Nov. 25.
“Joe worked yesterday and today without any problems so he’s in the squad list,” Pellegrini said at his pre-match news conference on Friday.
“We’ll see on Kun (Aguero), he’s recovering from his heel. He’s in pain so it’s not easy for him to work. I don’t think he will be fit — maybe for Tuesday.”
Influential midfielder Yaya Toure has joined the club’s lengthy casualty list, alongside Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Samir Nasri and Patrick Roberts, while defender Eliaquim Mangala is suspended.
Pellegrini, however, said the injuries would not affect his team’s playing style.
“We don’t depend on one or two players. We have an average of six players injured every game but even so we’re through to the last 16 of the Champions League and into the semi-final of the Capital One (League) Cup.
“I think for a manager the best thing is to try and keep the starting 11 when you are winning but it’s impossible for the amount of games we’re playing.
“It doesn’t matter which names start as we will play the same style.”
The manager stressed the importance of a strong start against 12th-placed Stoke who, under former City manager Mark Hughes, have changed the way they play over the past few seasons.
“It’s important to be aggressive from the start against Stoke from the first minute. Especially in the first 15-20 minutes, they want to make the difference so it’s important to be good from the start,” Pellegrini said.
“Last year they make a mix of styles — they try to not always play with high balls and just with crosses. They try to have more possession — by the characteristics of their players they still try to score with crosses but it’s a mix now.
“It will be a tough against an important team.”
Stoke manager Hughes told a news conference that City’s injury problems did not mean the leaders should be under-estimated.
“They’ll replace injured players with £25m players,” he said.
“They can replace outstanding players with other outstanding players.
“We are coming up against an outstanding team, still incredibly strong.”
Hughes said forwards Peter Crouch and Peter Odemwingie both have hamstring injuries and are unavailable.
“It’s a big part of the season for us,” he added.
“If you look back at our results over this period last year we did well and that set us up for the rest of the season.”
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru and Steve Tongue; editing by Toby Davis)