Yaya Toure missed every minute of Manchester City’s five-match winless streak between early January and the start of this month, thanks to African Cup of Nations duty, and Manuel Pellegrini’s men have triumphed a whopping ten times on the spin with the Ivorian in the side.
City couldn’t stop Toure’s old club Barcelona pinching a 2-0 Etihad win at this stage of the competition last term, despite their all-action midfield talisman being on from the off.
It’s hard to see them doing any better with the 31-year-old sidelined through suspension, meaning Luis Enrique’s men are a tidy price at 11/10 to lay down a qualification marker with a win in the north west.
Superstar striker Sergio Aguero, who only managed 45 minutes over the two legs of the 4-1 aggregate loss last term, redresses the balance somewhat, but City look all too likely to make the same mistakes they did last term.
Argentine centre-half Martin Demichelis was the fall guy then, after bringing down international teammate Lionel Messi for a penalty in the 53rd minute when the game was still goalless, and receiving a red card for his troubles.
If City’s last couple of games are anything to go by, and they should be as Pellegrini’s side have arrested their five-game slump with 4-1 and 5-0 Premier League wins over Stoke and Newcastle, then Demichelis will start on the bench in favour of equally-clumsy Frenchman Eliaquim Mangala.
The £30m-plus summer 2014 signing has already been sent off for City, away to Southampton in only his tenth start for the club, adding to the couple of red cards he picked up in two full seasons in the Porto first team. Incidentally, they both came in the past couple of Februarys.
Toure is one of two Citizens serving out a three-match European ban after receiving his marching orders in the 2-1 loss at home to CSKA Moscow back in November, as Fernandinho also saw red that evening.
You can have 15/4 with bwin.com that a Manchester City player is the first to be sent off at the Etihad, with 3/1 on offer about there being exactly one penalty.