GIOVANNI Trapattoni faces the prospect of going into the crunch Euro 2012 clash with Macedonia without his captain and vice-captain after Shay Given joined Robbie Keane in becoming a major doubt yesterday.
The Donegal man will discover this week if he needs to undergo surgery on his shoulder -- he was left off the Manchester City bench for yesterday's FA Cup win over Notts County at Eastlands.
With skipper Keane racing to be fit for the March 26 meeting with the former Yugoslav republic after tearing his quad muscle, City boss Roberto Mancini revealed 110-capped 'keeper Given has injured the same shoulder which prematurely ended his campaign last season, when he required an operation in April.
"He has a shoulder problem and next week he will go to the doctor in London to see if he needs surgery," Mancini said of the goalkeeper who has started just four matches this season.
Another player causing headaches for Mancini is his fellow Italian Mario Balotelli, by far the more naturally gifted of the two strikers on whom City have spent big money on this season and a player the manager sees as developing into a name which chroniclers of the sport will one day bracket with Cristiano Ronaldo and Eric Cantona.
But the snood was cast to the floor as he disappeared down the tunnel and Balotelli was in hospital last night, undergoing tests after a clash of heads with Krystian Pearce. The collision was the last act of an afternoon in which we saw some flashes of the acceleration which makes Balotelli so dangerous but also brought his sixth yellow card of a season in which he has started only eight games.
Mancini brushed all this off with his usual insouciance last night.
"Sure, he was unhappy," Mancini said. "But it was our plan. We decided before the game that he would play only 60 minutes (because it was) the first game he played from the start (in two and a half months)."
Mancini had some more reason to be cheerful as his other big-money striker Edin Dzeko scored and also showed flashes of a developing partnership with Carlos Tevez, whose 50th City goal in 74 games underlined the team's dependence on him.
Patrick Vieira scored twice with headers from corners to put City in control before Micah Richards rounded off the game to seal a comfortable, if slightly flattering, victory.