City boost as returning Kompany has Madrid in his sights
Vincent Kompany makes his latest return from injury tonight with Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini confident he can pass a physical and mental test to put himself in the running to face Real Madrid in the Champions League next week.
The City captain has not played since suffering his fourth calf injury of the season - and 14th in total since joining the club in 2008 - as the team overcame Dynamo Kiev in the last 16 in mid-March.
The defender (30) has since missed six games but will be back to face relegation-threatened Newcastle United at St James' Park with Pellegrini confident that, as long as he suffers no further setback, he will be capable of playing the games required to encompass next Tuesday night's first leg of the semi-final against Real.
"I think that now he is ready to start," said Pellegrini, who will also have England international Raheem Sterling back after five games out with a groin injury as his side chase a fourth successive Premier League win to further cement their place in the Champions League qualification places.
"He is a very strong player mentally. I think he is without any problems and he is working 100pc.
"I think he's able to play two games a week. It's not the same muscle, not the same leg or injury. Maybe he must review a lot of things, as other players do, to try to have less injuries."
Meanwhile, Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez is hoping his side are ready to strike if City allow themselves to be distracted by their showdown with Real.
Pellegrini has already had to contend with the circus surrounding the impending arrival of successor Pep Guardiola, and Benitez is hoping the Chilean's players have other things on their minds as Newcastle look to drag themselves out of the drop zone.
He said: "I'm sure Pellegrini will try to do that (keep them focused), but in the back of your head, you are thinking the semi-final is massive, to be in the final and have the opportunity to win the final, so imagine if you pick up an injury or have any problem, so I think the players will be thinking about that - hopefully, a lot of them.
"But they are professionals and will try to win. They are in a good position now in the Premier League. But in the back of their head, for sure, will be the doubt that if they pick up an injury, they cannot play in the semi-final or final."
Newcastle rekindled their hopes of avoiding the drop with a 3-0 victory over Swansea on Saturday, but they know that was only a start with three points still separating them from safety with five games remaining.
"The main thing is that if we believe, like we did from the first minute to the last against Swansea, then we can beat anyone," said Benitez.
To get anything out of the game, Newcastle will have to find a way to stop the in-form Sergio Aguero, who plundered five goals in the reverse fixture, a 6-1 City win.
Benitez said: "Sergio is a great player. He is doing really well. Hopefully he can score a lot of goals - but in the Champions League, not the league."
The former Liverpool boss believes that making Moussa Sissoko captain will help being out the best in the mercurial midfielder.
Sissoko's talent is unquestionable, but his commitment, application and desire have been queried during his three years at the club.
Benítez said: "When I came, a lot of people were giving me information, that he was not the player he should be. I had that conversation with him. The first day, watching his face, he was believing again. He is a good example for the other players to follow."
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