Sunday 22 April 2018

Pellegrini facing huge decision on Kompany fitness

Manchester City 2 West Brom 1

James McClean gets the better of Sergio Aguero during Saturday’s match at the Etihad Stadium. Photo: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP/Getty Images
James McClean gets the better of Sergio Aguero during Saturday’s match at the Etihad Stadium. Photo: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP/Getty Images
Manchester City's Vincent Kompany. Photo:Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
West Bromwich Albion's Darren Fletcher and Manchester City's Fabian Delph compete for possession. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Pete Oliver

Manuel Pellegrini does not have many decisions left to make as Manchester City manager but he faces a huge one over the make-up of his side to pursue a place in the Champions League semi-finals as he ponders a recall for captain Vincent Kompany.

When Kompany limped out of the 0-0 draw against Dynamo Kiev which secured City's last-eight berth last month with yet another calf injury, it looked unlikely that the central defender would play again this season.

However, the Belgium international has made a quicker-than-expected recovery to put himself in the frame for tomorrow's visit of Paris Saint-Germain in the second leg of their quarter-final with the tie level at 2-2.

Kompany, who was 30 yesterday, is thought to consider his involvement in the balance as he weighs up short- and long-term goals.

It would be only natural for Belgium's captain to have the Euro 2016 finals and his future career in the back of his mind, even if there is no apparent pressure from his country to delay a return.

However, Pellegrini may be leaning towards selecting City's best defender for one of the biggest games in the club's history before he prepares to make way for the arrival of Pep Guardiola in the summer.

"We will assess him. It's difficult but we'll see," said Pellegrini after his side had come from behind to beat West Brom at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

"From the moment he starts working with the squad he has a chance but he has not played for about a month. We will wait.

"It's a difficult decision. The easiest decision is for Vincent to play but it's not easy to know if he really can play, if he is able to play 90 minutes, if he is 100pc recovered, not to come off in the first 10 minutes.

"We must test him. We must speak with him. If he's ready he will want to play."

With yesterday's training limited to warm-downs for those who played on Saturday, today is likely to be the first, and only, full day's training Kompany will have to state his case.

But there is no doubt Pellegrini would love to have his most trusted defender available, particularly as City midfielder Samir Nasri - a France international - believes City may not yet have seen the best of PSG.


Nasri, who is ineligible for the tie - he was left out pf the squad list that City submitted to Uefa before the knockout stages of the competition after suffering a serious thigh muscle injury in October - warned: "It's going to be a dangerous game.

"We have the advantage, but I know Paris and the way they played against us I think they were on an off-day.

"They made a lot of mistakes technically and that's not the way they play. Normally they are better on the ball.

"When you have the advantage you don't know what to do, if you have to attack or to defend, and don't know how to play this kind of game.

"But I know the lads are really hungry and it's an opportunity to go into the top four of the best teams in Europe. So, I know we are going to do a game that we need to be in the semi-final."

Nasri's hopes of winning this year's Champions League may be already over, but the Frenchman did his bit to help City's qualify for next season's competition with a match-winning comeback from injury.

With City fearing a longer absence and short of attacking options at the time, owing to an injury to Wilfried Bony, they selected Kelechi Iheanacho in Nasri's place.

"It was a really easy decision. Even if I was to be back just for the final, it's not something we had in mind. Why would I keep a spot when someone is available?" said Nasri after scoring in his first start since September.

The goal gave City successive Premier League wins for the first time since October and lifted them to within two points of third-placed Arsenal in their effort to secure a top-four finish.

City needed Nasri's goal after they quickly cancelled out Stephane Sessegnon's fine early strike with a Sergio Aguero penalty, but then struggled to break down Albion again until the arrival from the bench of Kevin de Bruyne.

Even then, the West Brom manager, Tony Pulis, felt his side should have had a penalty at 1-1 for a clumsy challenge by Eliaquim Mangala on Sandro. The visitors then missed late chances through Saido Berahino and James McClean.

(© Daily Telegraph, London.)

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