Aguero's loss opens door for Balotelli

Updated: 2013-01-03 07:59

By Agence France-Presse in Manchester (China Daily)

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Sergio Aguero's loss could be Mario Balotelli's gain after the Argentine striker went off injured during his side's 3-0 win at home to Stoke City.

The New Year's Day success enabled City to preserve the seven-point gap that separates it from Premier League leader Manchester United.

It came at a cost, however, with Aguero forced from the fray in the 76th minute after apparently injuring his hamstring.

Manager Roberto Mancini predicted on Tuesday that Aguero would be out for about 10 days, ruling him out of Saturday's FA Cup tie with Watford and placing his participation in the league game at Arsenal the following weekend in doubt.

One potential replacement is Italian forward Balotelli, the controversial striker who has missed the holiday program due to a virus.

But Mancini will have to think long and hard about whether to field Balotelli at the Emirates, given his last performance there, when he was shown a straight red card for a late challenge on Bacary Sagna.

"Mario is back on the training pitch, he's trained for the last two or three days, and he looks like he's shaken the illness off," said assistant coach David Platt.

"The problem that Mario had is that he was ill, he came back, then he had a relapse with his illness.

"It looks like he's got past that. He's got two or three days on the training pitch. There's every chance he'll be available for selection come the weekend."

Aguero has already had one extended spell on the sidelines this season, a knee problem ruling him out for just more than a month in late August, and despite the depth in City's squad, his absence will be keenly felt.

The 24-year-old has been in magnificent form of late but limped off the field minutes after claiming City's third goal from the penalty spot.

Platt said City would face an anxious 48-hour wait before the injury settles and the club's medical staff is able to determine the full extent of the problem.

"It's bad enough that he won't play Saturday," said Platt.

"It's difficult to assess an injury like that for how long it's going to be. Saturday he will be out. He'll be doubtful for Arsenal.

"It's a hamstring. There are different degrees of hamstring, that's why you need the 48 hours. We'll just have to see."

(China Daily 01/03/2013 page11)