Manchester City are set to welcome back captain Vincent Kompany as they seek to address their poor away form at West Brom tonight.
The centre-back has been sorely missed throughout a 10-game lay-off with a thigh injury, particularly in games away from the Etihad Stadium.
While City’s attacking brilliance has maintained their 100% Barclays Premier League home record in some style, it has been unable to mask their defensive deficiencies on the road.
City have lost four of their six away games, a statistic that could undermine their title challenge, but they will hope to start putting it right – with Kompany restored – at The Hawthorns.
Commenting on the significance of his skipper’s return, manager Manuel Pellegrini said: “Kompany is in the squad list and he is travelling with the team.
“Vincent is a very important player, he is a very good defender and of course we need him.
“He is also the captain of the team and he will normally be in the 11 starting.
“He is one of the best. He is very complete in all senses.
“In one-v-ones, heading, he has a lot of speed, so he is very complete.”
Yet while Kompany’s return is undoubtedly important – and timely with fellow centre-half Matija Nastasic now injured – Pellegrini does feel the other defenders have been harshly criticised for only the occasional error.
He said: “I don’t think this team depends on one player. We have other defenders – (Martin) Demichelis, (Joleon) Lescott, Nastasic and they are doing very well also – or very bad sometimes – so we have a squad and now the return of Vincent is very important.
“But, in the last five (domestic) games, we just conceded one goal against Sunderland.”
Pellegrini also regards the away statistics as an anomaly. City’s recent home wins have included 7-0 and 6-0 thrashings of Norwich and Tottenham respectively and Pellegrini’s approach is the same for every fixture.
He said: “I don’t think we deserve the defeats that we have had in some games away, but we have had them.
“In the future we need to add points playing away if we want to fight for the Premier League.
“It is more an aspect of concentration and intensity during the whole match.”
West Brom, and Southampton in the next away fixture on Saturday, are likely to put their resolve to the test.
Pellegrini said: “I think we have two very difficult games.
“Not only West Brom, but Southampton are having a very good year.
“It is very important to try to win both games. It is not easy but we must try.”
Pellegrini has refused to get involved in a war of words with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who has claimed City are under pressure to win the title because of the strength of their squad.
The Chilean said: “We have a very strong squad but I also know that five or six other teams also have.
“I don’t decide on comments that other managers say.”