Barry key to slick City - Lescott
Joleon Lescott has hailed the contribution of unsung hero Gareth Barry to the Manchester City cause this season.
In a largely spectacular campaign, the accolades have tended to be spread around David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Yaya Toure and, occasionally, Joe Hart. Yet Lescott is acutely aware none of the superstars would be able to perform without the tireless work of Barry, who claimed man-of-the-match accolades in last weekend's win over Arsenal before turning in another inspiring display against Stoke in midweek.
"Gareth has been immense for club and country," said Lescott. "He is one of those players you don't really appreciate until he's not there. He is just so consistent. You can't sing his praises enough. If you ask any of our midfielders who they most want to play with, their preference would be Gareth Barry."
Prior to the start of the season, it was felt Barry might be the one to lose out as manager Roberto Mancini attempted to squeeze all his big-name players into one team. As it turned out, Nigel de Jong has been the one left frustrated most often, with Lescott believing Barry has benefited from sticking to his strengths.
"He hasn't changed anything," said the defender. "He believes in himself and just carried on with his own consistent performances.
"You need people like Gareth to balance attack and defence."
With Mancini expecting Micah Richards to be fit despite taking a bang on his calf against Stoke, City's major concern ahead of their Boxing Day trip to West Brom is Edin Dzeko.
The Bosnian suffered an ankle knock in training earlier in the week, which was enough to rule him out of the victory over Tony Pulis' men that ensures City will spend Christmas Day on top of the table for the first time since 1929.
Monday's game represents a return to old Midlands haunts for Barry, although the reception he receives at the Hawthorns does not tend to be as frosty as the one he gets at Villa's real enemy.
"It used to be a derby for me when I was at Villa, but their fans don't give me as much stick as I get at Birmingham," he said.