With Sergio Aguero sidelined for up to two months, Manchester City fans will be especially fretful that in just a few short weeks they’ll be forced to make do without their second most prominent attacking threat; herculean midfielder Yaya Toure.
The African Cup of Nations will preoccupy the Ivory Coast superstar throughout January and a chunk of February, but it won’t hamper the excellent progress Manuel Pellegrini’s men are making.
With a Champions League exit all but assured heading into matchday five, the Citizens managed to beat FC Bayern Munchen at home, then Roma away without the services of the former Barcelona virtuoso and book the unlikeliest of last 16 berths.
The Premier League champions can now be backed at 12/1 to win the competition outright and they stand a better chance of doing so without Toure in the team.
Prior to their 2-0 loss against an allegedly weakened Man City side, Roma had won all bar two of their Olimpico outings this term and hadn’t failed to find the net once.
Domestically, six of the eight visitors to Giallorossi base camp returned having failed to hassle the scoreboard operator.
These figures indicate what an impressive win Man City’s was, though it can be argued that it wouldn’t have been possible were Toure in the team.
A disciplined midfield twosome of Fernando and Fernandinho were able to successfully orchestrate play and extinguish the bulk of the hosts’ attacking advances through the centre of the pitch.
Their energy and willingness to get back ensured that Martin Demichelis and Eliaquim Mangala were afforded first-class protection all night and, as a result, both were largely unperturbed despite facing one of Europe’s finest forward lines.
Fernandinho was particularly impressive in shielding the back four, making a team-high five tackles and four interceptions, while Fernando boasted the best pass accuracy of all his fellow Citizens, with 81.4 per cent of his 49 balls finding their intended target.
Their solidifying presence is exactly what City require if they are to succeed on the continental stage.
Pairing either player with Toure in the centre of midfield frequently leaves the rearguard open on the counter given the Ivorian’s attacking inclinations.
The 31-year-old will miss away days at Everton, Chelsea and Stoke due to ACoN commitments, but if they deploy similar tactics to those reaped rewards in Rome Man City needn’t worry.