Bony set for Man City debut
MANCHESTER, England (AP):
Five weeks after his big-money transfer to Manchester City, Wilfried Bony is ready to play his first match for the English champions and give manager Manuel Pellegrini a selection dilemma up front.
Bony became one of the most expensive African players of all time when he joined City from Swansea for a reported £28 million (US$43 million) last month.
However, his involvement in the African Cup on Nations with Ivory Coast - the winners of the tournament - meant City have had to bide their time before playing the Premier League's most expensive signing in the winter transfer window.
That moment should arrive when Newcastle visits Etihad Stadium for a match that second-place City cannot afford to lose if they are to stay in realistic contention of catching Chelsea, who hold a seven-point lead with 13 games remaining.
Pellegrini may be tempted to start Bony, given the striker has scored three goals in his last two games against Newcastle.
"It's not easy, because I've just arrived from Africa, and I will have had five days of training before we play Newcastle," Bony said.
"I have to take it step by step and wait for the right opportunity to present itself. If I am needed, I have a good record against Newcastle."
Bony's arrival - and the return to City of his international teammate, midfielder Yaya TourÈ - means Pellegrini will have to tinker with his attack for the last few months of the season.
The Chilean coach has largely done away with his favoured 4-4-2 formation in recent months to ensure his midfield isn't over-run. That has often led to Sergio Ag¸ero playing on his own up front, but it is likely that Pellegrini will eventually pair Ag¸ero and Bony in attack. It remains to be seen who the fall guy will be in midfield.
City have won only one of their last four league games at home, helping Chelsea pull clear again after having an eight-point lead wiped out by the champions this season.
Chelsea are at home to relegation-threatened Burnley, while the weekend's standout match sees Southampton hosting Liverpool - two teams fighting for Champions League qualification.
After two months playing in central midfield, Wayne Rooney reverted to his usual position as a forward for the FA Cup match against Preston on Monday.
He found the net - albeit from the penalty spot - to end a nine-game streak without scoring, but he might find himself back in midfield for United's trip to Swansea on Saturday as striker Robin van Persie is fit after an unspecified injury.
United have received criticism for their performances in recent weeks, but have lost just once in 19 games and are third in the league - five points behind City.
Gus Poyet is the latest manager under pressure in the Premier League - and he has attempted to repair his fractured relationship with disillusioned Sunderland fans by writing an open letter on the club's website yesterday.
"I promise you that I care and want to win as much as you do," Poyet wrote, "and no one thinks more time everyday about the team than I do. So I invite all of you to stay positive, to be strong, closer to each other and keep believing in what we started."