They may be the richest club in the world but Manchester City are facing the prospect of having just 16 senior players available for tonight's Europa League last 32 second leg against Aris.
Roberto Mancini yesterday confirmed that goalkeeper Shay Given will miss three months with a shoulder problem he sustained in the warm-up before last week's goalless draw in Greece.
The Manchester City manager will also be without Micah Richards and James Milner, who have picked up calf and hamstring injuries, for this evening's match, with Adam Johnson facing another two months out with an ankle injury and Mancini not knowing when Nigel de Jong will be back from his own ankle problem.
It was hardly a problem Mancini can have envisaged as he brought in half a dozen players last summer but even though youngster David Gonzalez can be recalled from a loan spell at Leeds to supplement his goalkeeping cover, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz and Wayne Bridge all left on loan at the turn of the year.
They face 11 more games to grind out a Champions League place, and can expect as many as 11 more matches if they get through tonight — they are likely to face Dynamo Kiev in the last 16 — and progress to the finals of the Europa League and FA Cup.
“It's a big problem because this month will be very important for us,” Mancini said. “We lost Johnson and Nigel, Micah, Milner, all big problems because ankle, knee. When you play through to March 20 with one game every three days it's very difficult but we have 16 players and it will be important that we don't pick up any more injuries in the next few days.”
Mancini added: “Every year you can improve. Next year it could be different maybe because we can improve the team. We have players with experience. Playing in the Champions League at the start it can be a problem.
“But I played for Sampdoria in their first time in the Champions League 20 years ago and we got to the final. We need to improve because we are not like Barca, Madrid, Milan or Inter.”