Premier League

Mancini: Rooney buy so tough

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Fri, 08 Mar 2013 11:34:00

Captain Steven Caldwell will be assessed ahead of Birmingham's home clash against Derby at St Andrew's in the Championship on Saturday but fellow defender Mitch Hancox has been ruled out.

Centre-back Caldwell battled through illness to start last weekend's 5-2 defeat at Hull before coming off in the 37th minute and duly missed Tuesday's 1-1 draw at home to Blackpool, with the Scot returning to training for the first time on Friday.

Left-back Hancox sustained a hamstring injury against the Seasiders which saw his involvement cut short in the second half and he is now sidelined for three weeks.

Boss Lee Clark said: "It was a blow when young Mitchell had to come off with a tight hamstring. It's a bit of a nightmare for us, you just get things going the way you want them to and you get a setback."

Spanish defender Pablo remains sidelined through injury while leading scorer Marlon King has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a knee problem but midfielders Keith Fahey and Darren Ambrose could be involved.

Derby hope to have Craig Bryson fit for their trip across the Midlands to face Birmingham.

Bryson missed the 1-1 draw at Championship leaders Cardiff on Tuesday night with a groin injury and the midfielder will continue to be monitored ahead of the weekend.

The Rams' other injury problems do not look like clearing up in time for the St Andrew's clash, though.

Jamie Ward was absent in the Welsh capital after a hamstring problem forced him off during the home defeat to Crystal Palace last Friday. The diminutive forward could be back in the squad when Leicester visit Pride Park on March 16.

John Brayford was an ever-present in Nigel Clough's team until a hamstring injury ruled him out against Cardiff. The extent of the problem is not yet known but the right-back could be looking at several weeks on the sidelines.

Fellow defenders James O'Connor (knee), Kieron Freeman (ankle) and Mark O'Brien (knee) are not ready to return, while no comeback date has been put on teenage midfielder Will Hughes (groin).

Billy Clarke should return to the Red Devils squad after their 12-goal top scorer resumed training following a hamstring injury ahead of Tuesday night's clash with Carlisle, but was not risked for the 1-1 draw.

Boss Richie Barker is still without captain Josh Simpson due to an ankle injury, while defender Kyle McFadzean remains sidelined as he recovers from the virus which struck him down in November.

Mark Connolly may have to settle for a place on the bench again.

The defender returned from a one-game suspension against Carlisle but Barker kept faith with January signing Connor Essam, who impressed on his full debut in Saturday's 2-0 win at Bury in Connolly's absence.

The Magpies are without the suspended Dean Leacock, who received his 10th yellow card of the season during the 1-1 home draw with Leyton Orient on Wednesday night and will begin a two-match ban.

John Cofie suffered a facial injury against the O's and the striker is a doubt along with right-back Julian Kelly, who has missed the last two games with a calf problem.

Manny Smith could come in for Leacock while Yoann Arquin, Cofie's 42nd-minute replacement in midweek, is on standby should the on-loan Manchester United youngster miss out.

Midfielders Jeff Hughes, Hamza Bencherif and Greg Tempest are also options for manager Chris Kiwomya should he wish to make any further changes to his starting line-up.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has responded to intense speculation over Rooney's future by insisting the England striker will still be at Old Trafford next season.

But Mancini was still asked whether he might be tempted to test United's resolve over the 27-year-old as he met media to preview his side's FA Cup clash with Barnsley this weekend.

City were heavily linked with a move for Rooney during the player's infamous contract stand-off with United in 2010.

Mancini said: "I think that Rooney is one of the best strikers in Europe but I think it is difficult he can leave Man Utd - I don't think (so)."

Suggestions Rooney could leave United have gathered pace since he was omitted from United's starting line-up for their Champions League loss to Real Madrid on Tuesday.

Mancini says he would be surprised if something such as that led to his departure.

The Italian said: "I don't know. I don't know this situation.

"I can understand maybe Rooney would be upset if he didn't play but these are things that can happen in every team. After one week it is finished."

There has been a report suggesting City striker Edin Dzeko could hold the key to Rooney's future at United.

Dzeko has been linked with a return to German football with Borussia Dortmund, whose star striker Robert Lewandowski is reportedly coveted by United.

Were Dzeko, signed from Wolfsburg for £27million two years ago to move on, that could tempt Dortmund to cash in on Lewandowski 12 months before his contract expires.

But Dzeko, City's top scorer in the Premier League this season with 12 goals, has often stated his desire to remain at the Etihad Stadium and Mancini claims not to be aware of any interest.

He said: "At the moment, there is nothing. In the end, maybe, I don't know. In the summer, it could be possible.

"Dzeko player is an important player for us. We want that he stays here."

One of City's other high-profile strikers, Sergio Aguero, will miss the Barnsley clash with the knee injury that kept him out at Aston Villa on Monday.

Captain Vincent Kompany will also not be risked after missing six games with calf problems.

Mancini hopes both players will be fit to return for the trip to Everton next week.

Mancini said: "I don't think it is serious but in this moment we can't take a risk with Sergio.

"Vinnie was training with the team yesterday but I don't think we can risk Vinnie. Maybe he is ready for the next game against Everton."

Midfielder Jack Rodwell faces up to a month on the sidelines after limping out at Villa Park with yet another hamstring injury.

The 21-year-old, whose City career since a £12million summer move from Everton is yet to take off, has a history of such problems and only returned to action in January after a three-month lay-off.

Mancini said: "Jack is so-so. I think we need two or three weeks after the international break."

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