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Mancini has back trouble ahead of Chelsea clash

Manchester City could have just three fit defenders for Saturday's Premier League crunch with Chelsea.

Unless Micah Richards recovers from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the 2-1 Carling Cup defeat at West Brom, Roberto Mancini will have only Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure available to face the only side left with a 100pc record.

"We have big problems," he said. "I hope that Micah Richards can recover. If not I don't know who can play left-back."

The obvious inference is that should Richards miss out, Zabaleta will play on the right side and City would look for an alternative on the left flank.

That could either involve Adam Johnson being pressed into emergency service, or more likely a midfield such as James Milner or Gareth Barry.

Either way, further injury fears shaped Mancini's team selection at The Hawthorns where, having taking a first-half lead through Jo, City were undone by two goals in as many minutes from Gianni Zuiverloon and Simon Cox.

"We couldn't take any risks," said Mancini.

"If I had more players available it would be a different team.

"But when you play like us and Chelsea, on Saturday at 12.45, the time to recover is very short.

"They would need minimum three days so to play tonight would have been dangerous."

It is to be hoped owner Sheikh Mansour understands the dilemma.

After spending £1bn on City in just over two years, he was presumably hoping for an early end to the club's lengthy trophy drought.

That now cannot happen until May at the earliest, although Mancini has no regrets.

"I don't regret making the changes," he said.

"Saturday is more important, the FA Cup is more important. The Europa League is more important.

"I did not regard this as a necessary sacrifice. We wanted to win. That is why I had four senior players on the bench."

West Brom assistant boss Michael Appleton declared himself delighted with the result.

He said: "It was a great result. Really positive. Made numerous changes and the lads responded well.

"We were second guessing their side bearing in mind they have Chelsea on Saturday but there was still a lot of experience in the side.

"They brought the cavalry on at the end and we were under the cosh for the last 15 minutes but we did enough to win."