Manchester City’s expensive squad is not big enough to cope with injuries, manager Roberto Mancini said on Tuesday.
The Italian’s concern is likely to raise a few eyebrows among those who have watched the world’s richest club spend hundreds of millions of pounds putting together an outfit to mount a serious assault on the Premier League title.
The league leaders have been depleted this month by the departures of Yaya and Kolo Toure, who are on African Nations Cup duty, while captain Vincent Kompany has been handed a four-match ban after a red card against Manchester United on Sunday.
With Carlos Tevez frozen out and fellow strikers Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli struggling with knocks, City are a little short-staffed even if the players they do have available are worth more than many clubs can dream of.
“All the people think we have a lot of players,” Mancini told a news conference ahead of Wednesday’s League Cup semi-final first leg against Liverpool. “But we have 19 plus keepers. It is not a big squad.
“If we are unlucky and we have three or four players injured, like at this moment, we can have a problem. The club knows this.”
City did have their full complement of substitutes for the 3-2 loss that ended their FA Cup defence although they included Denis Suarez and Abdul Razak, who have just six first-team appearances between them.
And the situation may be even more difficult for City when they face Liverpool at Eastlands on Wednesday.
There are fitness doubts regarding Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko and the in-form David Silva.
Mancini will be able to welcome back midfielder Gareth Barry from suspension but will be without Kolo and Yaya Toure, the brothers now on international duty with the Ivory Coast at the African Nations Cup.
That has all led the City boss to suggest 17-year-old Dutchman Karim Rekik could feature against Liverpool.
Mancini last week suggested City could dabble in the transfer market in the January window providing they sold some players first, such as Argentina striker Tevez and former England defender Wayne Bridge.
Since being taken over by Abu Dhabi in 2008, City have spent more than 600 million pounds ($926.73 million) on players.
They disclosed an annual loss of 194.9 million pounds in their financial results for 2010-11, the biggest ever in English soccer.
Conscious of the need to comply with UEFA’s financial fair play rules which come into full effect in 2013-14 and which aim to stop reckless spending on wages and transfers, City have spoken of moving towards more sustainable spending levels.
Splashing the cash has yielded rewards with the club winning their first major trophy in 35 years with victory in last season’s FA Cup final.
They competed in the Champions League for the first time this term, going out at the group stage, and have established a three-point lead at the top of the Premier League to give themselves a good chance of dethroning rivals Manchester United.
Player absences, though, have come at a time Mancini has earmarked as key to their chances of picking up some more silverware.
“I said four weeks ago that December and January would be crucial months,” said Mancini.
“Until three weeks ago we didn’t have any injuries. Now we have a problem.
“We have players injured and others who went to the African Nations Cup at a crucial moment. I am not happy about this but we can’t do anything about it.”