Sheffield Wednesday boss Stuart Gray is pondering his selection options as the Owls prepare to lock horns with the champions of England.
Gray will have to make two enforced changes to his starting line-up for tomorrow’s FA Cup third round clash at Premier League giants Manchester City, kick-off 3pm.
Joe Mattock (groin) is ruled out, meaning Claude Dielna is expected to slot in at left-back.
Gray will also have to freshen up his midfield department, with Lewis McGugan having returned to parent club Watford following his productive loan stint at Wednesday.
The Owls chief, who has Kieran Lee and Rhys McCabe vying to fill the midfield vacancy, says they have spoken to Watford regarding McGugan’s situation. He hopes to bring the Nottingham-born player back to Hillsborough on loan until the end of the season.
“Lewis has gone back to weigh up his options and have a discussion with the manager there,” said Gray.
Another player Wednesday will not be able to call upon is Royston Drenthe. The talented Dutch forward, left out for “personal reasons” against Wigan Athletic, has rejoined Reading following the expiry of his loan deal.
Gray said: “We thought we had agreed a deal with Reading but they decided to call back Royston. He’s their player so they are deciding what they are going to do with him.”
Skipper Glenn Loovens took no part in training yesterday but Gray hopes he will be passed fit to face City. Kamil Zayatte, included in Guinea’s squad for the up-and-coming Africa Cup of Nations tournament, is on stand-by should Loovens miss out.
The tie comes too soon for Sam Hutchinson and Lewis Buxton. Midfielder Giles Coke is unlikely to be risked following a lengthy lay-off.
Gray expects City, who are currently enjoying an 11-match unbeaten run in all competitions, to field a strong side. Captain Vincent Kompany (calf/hamstring) and strikers Edin Dzeko (calf) and Sergio Aguero (knee) are sidelined but Fernando, Jose Pozo and Frank Lampard pushing for starts.
“City have got a big squad; we will be playing against 11 full internationals,” said Gray, who reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup as a player with Nottingham Forest. “I’m more concerned with what we do.
“We know it is a difficult game but there are always shocks in the FA Cup. There probably won’t be just one. There will be two or three.”
He added: “My players will be at it. If you don’t turn up with the right attitude, it can become a long 90 minutes. We want to give a good account of ourselves but there is probably more pressure on City to perform than there is on us.”