Santa Cruz set for City bow

Posted Monday, September 28, 2009 by PA

Roque Santa Cruz could make his Manchester City debut in Monday's encounter with West Ham at Eastlands.

The Paraguay international has been consigned to the sidelines since his #17million summer move from Blackburn after a knee operation. However, he came through a reserve team encounter with Wrexham unscathed on Wednesday and should be on the bench for the Blues.

Michael Johnson played in the same game and is also available after abdominal trouble, while Stephen Ireland will be assessed by City's medical staff after he was released from hospital on Friday morning after being admitted complaining of dizziness.

Emmanuel Adebayor sits completes the final game of a three-match suspension picked up for his facial attack on Arsenal`s Robin van Persie.

Mark Hughes is not too worried about being without Adebayor because his City players need to get used to it.

The disciplinary problems are not over for the #25million striker either given he is still to face an improper conduct charge brought by the FA following the former Arsenal man's controversial goal celebration against his old club.

Yet Hughes is looking much further forward, to the African Cup of Nations in January.

If Togo demand Adebayor's release as soon as FIFA statutes allow and then go on to be successful in the competition, which will be played in Angola, the 25-year-old could be missing for an entire month.

"Ade has been a big part of the start that we have been able to achieve," said the City boss.

"But at times during the season, certainly when he is on international duty next year, we will have to go into games without him.

"We may as well get used to being without him and making sure we understand what we have to do when he is not around."

Striker Guillermo Franco could make his debut for West Ham.

West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola is hopeful that England defender Matthew Upson will have recovered from a calf injury while Luis Jimenez is also back in training after nursing a thigh strain.

Midfielder Valon Behrami, however, is doubtful with a back injury he suffered in last week's defeat against Liverpool.

Zola believes confronting the fire of former West Ham striker Craig Bellamy made him a better manager.

The Hammers boss must find a way to counter the pace of Bellamy when his side meet Manchester City at Eastlands.

While Zola admits managing Bellamy was not the easiest task of his year-long career so far as a Premier League boss he admits grappling with the feisty personality of the controversial Welsh striker was a steep learning curve.

Zola said: "I loved working with him because he tested me a lot. He has such a fire inside and it can be hard, but if you approach him in the right way he can give you a lot of satisfaction.

"He is a person you have to listen to for the second thing he says, because the first thing sometimes can be hard.

"He is honest and is not worried about telling somebody they are doing something wrong. Even to the manager."

Zola admits they did have one altercation when they fronted up to each other following West Ham's defeat at Hull last season.

Zola learned that Bellamy had been harsh in his criticism of some of West Ham's players in the dressing room and warned him not to do so again.

"He said 'Are you threatening me?' recalls Zola. "And I said 'No I'm not threatening you.'

"From then it was the break point. After that we respected each other and everything went well. I always listened to his opinion and he always listened to my advice."


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