Manchester City’s bid to reel in Premier League leaders Manchester United has been jeopardised by injuries to key players as they prepare to open their Christmas campaign at home to Reading today.
Six points off the pace after their 3-2 loss in the Manchester derby earlier this month, the champions could be missing captain Vincent Kompany and midfielder Samir Nasri for the Royals’ visit to the Etihad Stadium. Kompany limped out of the derby with a groin injury, forcing him to miss last weekend’s 3-1 win at Newcastle United, and he is a major doubt for today’s game.
Nasri picked up a similar injury in the game at St James’ Park and looks set to be out for two weeks, potentially ruling him out of City’s entire festive programme. To compound matters for coach Roberto Mancini, central midfielder Jack Rodwell has revealed that he will probably be out of action until the beginning of 2013 due to a hamstring injury that he sustained in October.
Injuries aside, Mancini will expect his side to take all three points at home to a Reading team who sank to the foot of the table last weekend and were thrashed 5-2 at home by Arsenal on Monday. City can close to within three points of top spot if they beat Reading, with United not in action until their lunchtime trip to Swansea City on Sunday.
The festive season is a pivotal period in the Premier League, with teams facing four games in the space of only 12 days. Gunners eye third spot Arsenal kick off the weekend programme at home to third-bottom Wigan Athletic today, when victory would provisionally propel them up to third place. Buoyed by the rout at Reading, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was given further reason for optimism in mid-week when Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Ramsey all agreed new contracts.
The Frenchman faces demands from supporters to improve his squad in the January transfer window, but he says the performance at Reading proves that the team are on the right track. “Let’s see how far this team can go. If we can add one or two exceptional players, we will do it,” he said. Tottenham Hotspur quietly stole into the top four last weekend and they can put pressure on third-place Chelsea — who host Aston Villa on Sunday — with victory at home to Stoke City. Everton, who have slipped to sixth after winning just two of their last 11 fixtures, visit West Ham United.