Manchester City could welcome back Kevin De Bruyne and Samir Nasri for their Premier League trip to AFC Bournemouth on Saturday.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side went into the international break off the back of a damaging 1-0 derby defeat to Manchester United which leaves them just a one-point cushion on their city rivals and West Ham in the top-four race.
City’s away form has blighted their league campaign all season – they have only won two of their last 11 top-flight matches on the road and have scored just six goals in the last 10 of those games.
However, with De Bruyne available again after recovering from knee and ankle damage sustained in January and Nasri having returned to training this week after missing five months with a groin problem, those attacking concerns could well be remedied.
Nasri, whose last game was in the 5-1 home win over Bournemouth on October 17, expects Eddie Howe’s side to prove a stern test – especially with City already looking ahead to a Champions League quarter-final with Paris Saint-Germain next week.
The Frenchman told City’s official website of Saturday’s opposition: “Even when they were struggling, at the start of the season they were still playing a certain type of football and at home, they are really dangerous.
“Away, they are more manageable but it’s really difficult to go to their ground and play – especially after an international break and with there being just three days before the first Champions League quarter-final this club has played in – it’s going to be anything but easy for us.”
Bournemouth have never beaten City in the league but their form in the second half of the season will give them plenty of optimism.
Only title-chasing Leicester City (37) and Tottenham (36) have taken more points since December 1 than Bournemouth (28), and with a 12-point gap to the bottom three, Howe’s side are looking up towards a top-half finish rather than over their shoulders.
However, the manager insists the Cherries have not yet reached their points target for the campaign and has urged them to sustain their standards over their remaining seven games.
“We’ve done well to this point,” he told the club’s official podcast. “We have put ourselves in a good position so it’s in our hands, but we’ve got to try and finish the job now.
“As we know in this league, nobody gives you anything – you’ve got to earn it. And we still feel we need some more points to achieve our target.”
Bournemouth hope to have Joshua King available after he sustained a knock in the defeat to Tottenham prior to the international break, but Junior Stanislas (hamstring) and Harry Arter (Achilles) are unlikely to feature.
Calf injuries will keep Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany sidelined for City, with Raheem Sterling (groin) also out, but Yaya Toure (heel) and Fabian Delph (calf) are both hoping to be available.
Key Opta Stats:
– AFC Bournemouth have failed to score in all three previous competitive games in which they’ve hosted Manchester City.
– Glenn Murray has scored in both of his last two Premier League games against City.
– City have scored 11 goals from outside the penalty area this season, more long range goals than any other Premier League side.
– Manuel Pellegrini’s side have failed to score in three of their last four Premier League matches. The last time they failed to score in three Premier League games in a row was March 2008.
– Benik Afobe has scored four goals from just five shots on target in the Premier League.