Manchester City stars Vincent Kompany and Raheem Sterling are set make timely returns when Manuel Pellegrini’s men continue their quest for a top-four finish in the Premier League away to Newcastle on Tuesday.
City captain Kompany is set to make the journey to the north-east after a month out with yet another of the calf-related problems that have plagued the Belgian defender this season.
Meanwhile England forward Sterling is available again after five games out since he succumbed to a groin injury during City’s derby defeat by Manchester United last month.
Having both players back will be a boost for City, who face Spanish giants Real Madrid in a the first leg of their Champions League semi-final at Eastlands next week.
City have often looked defensively vulnerable in Kompany’s absence, although Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala have been more resolute in recent games.
“I am very happy with the way they are playing now, both of them, and Vincent will also be an important help for our defence,” said Pellegrini, who will be replaced at the end of the season by Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola.
“I always say if we are fighting for important things it is because we have a very good squad.
“Sterling is just coming from an important muscle injury and we will see tomorrow if he can play some minutes. It depends how he returns from the injury.”
City have won three of their last four league games, as well as reaching the Champions League semi-finals, although their recent run of good form has come too late for a serious domestic title challenge.
There were suggestions that the announcement of a new manager had unsettled the dressing room but Pellegrini said there was a simpler explanation for why City were not in contention to be crowned champions of England this season.
“The mathematical reason why we are not challenging for the title is because we lost three games in a row at the beginning of February. We lost to Leicester and Tottenham at home and Liverpool away. Three defeats in a row is not normal in this team.
“But I have spoken about why we didn’t win these games and couldn’t play well. There are a lot of reasons,” the Chilean added.
City may be in third place after their 3-0 win over Chelsea last weekend and Newcastle in the relegation zone, but the Magpies come into Tuesday’s match buoyed by a 3-0 win of their own, against Swansea, that has given fans at St James’ Park hope of beating the drop.
“They’re very dangerous,” said Pellegrini of Newcastle. “It is hard to believe they are in that position. They have very good players and it is always difficult to play at St James’ Park.
“I hope we can continue playing the same way we did last Saturday, being an aggressive team and trying to win from the beginning.
“If we continue playing that way it doesn’t matter against who we play but we know we have a difficult game. They need all the points to try not to be relegated.”