Manchester City look set to include several youngsters in their matchday squad for the heavyweight FA Cup fifth-round clash against Chelsea on 21 February. Manuel Pellegrini has admitted his side, who travel to Ukraine three days later for a Champions League round of 16 meeting with Dynamo Kiev, have just 13 senior outfield players fit and available for the trip to Stamford Bridge.
Captain Vincent Kompany, who started his first Premier League match for more than three months against Tottenham Hotspur earlier in February, is now fully recovered from persistent calf trouble and Bacary Sagna has returned to training after missing that 2-1 defeat due to a build-up of liquid in his knee. Striker Wilfried Bony is not yet in a position to return after seven weeks out, though, with City still missing a key quartet first-team performers.
"Sagna worked today after 10 days out," Pellegrini was quoted as saying by the club's official website at his pre-match press conference. "Mangala is injured, Nasri, De Bruyne and Bony are also out.
"Bony has started working on the pitch these last two days. He needs at least one week more. Tomorrow we have a squad list - I have to talk to the doctor and the players who've recovered. We have just 13 players available to play - we have to play Champions League on Wednesday - we'll see the best team we can play on Sunday."
Big chance for the youth players
With so many injury niggles to contend with and the prospect of one or two senior names being rested with that taxing journey to eastern Europe in mind, the contest with Chelsea could represent the chance for City's young talent to make a positive impression.
Bersant Celina, Aleix García Serrano and Manu García were all included on the bench against Tottenham and will be hopeful of earning starts. James Horsfield, Cameron Humphreys-Grant, Brandon Barker and Angelino have also featured in previous FA Cup squads this term.
"We couldn't play on the Saturday for some reason, so we put out the best team we can," Pellegrini added. "Young players have the option and they must take their chances. We normally have some young players in the cup - one or two maximum. I hope with the team we play against Chelsea, we hope they make the performance that we know they can.
"Something must change because the Capital One maybe is a cup for the first part of the season and you always play Wednesdays, it's no problem. The FA is more difficult - you must start postponing games to get there as it's at weekends.
"Something is not correct with the cup - if you continue to the final, you have to postpone three Premier League games and then fit them in later. You don't have time to play those games if you continue in Europe too."