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Chelsea's good start continues in cup

Chelsea
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Manuel Pellegrini hints Vincent Kompany may face longer spell on sidelines

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Manchester City are still unsure when captain Vincent Kompany will be fit to return to action.

The influential Belgium defender has made just 12 appearances this season due to calf injuries and was expected to be out until at least the end of January.

Now manager Manuel Pellegrini has conceded even that target date might be optimistic as the player undergoes analysis to try to get to the bottom of his persistent problems.

The 29-year-old's current lay-off is his 12th for a calf injury since the start of the title-winning 2011-12 campaign, and his third this season.

Asked if he could give an update on Kompany's progress at his latest press conference, Pellegrini said: "Not in this moment. It is difficult because Vincent is doing a lot of different things to try to understand and to find the reasons for so many injuries. At this moment it is difficult to tell you an update about that."

He later added: "Vincent maybe not so soon, but for the last part of the season he could be fit."

City's Barclays Premier League title challenge has suffered in Kompany's absence. Of the 11 games in which he has not featured, the team have kept just one clean sheet. When he has been on the field, they have only conceded once.

Now with Eliaquim Mangala also sidelined with a hamstring injury, City are looking short of central defensive options, but Pellegrini has no plans to sign cover during this month's transfer window.

He said: "We have (Martin) Demichelis, we have (Nicolas) Otamendi, we have Bacary Sagna, who can play in a central defensive position, we have Cameron (Humphreys), who is a young player who featured in pre-season with the squad. Mangala will return soon. So, at this moment, we are not thinking about making a change."

Pellegrini also insisted he had no plans to sign a new striker and instead praised 19-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho, who scored his fifth goal of the campaign in Saturday's FA Cup win at Norwich.

He said: "Kelechi has been involved from the first game of this season. He's in the squad because he's important in that position. It's important for him that when he has the opportunity to play, to do it in the way he did in the last game against Norwich.

"He's the answer for a lot of questions that you asked before about whether we need to bring in another striker - the other striker is Kelechi."

Forward Wilfried Bony has struggled to make an impact since his B£28million move to City from Swansea last January but Pellegrini would not comment on reports he could leave the club.

The Chilean said: "It's speculation - nothing more. I don't talk about rumours. Our squad is complete. Nobody will come and nobody will go out. We have options until the last day, but at the moment, no news."

City return to Barclays Premier League action on Wednesday as they host Everton a week after they were beaten at Goodison Park in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final.

"The games are not related," Pellegrini said. "Everton will be more related with Crystal Palace, who we must play on Saturday, because we are going to have less than 72 hours to recover the players.

"Every game is different. We must try to beat Everton (on Wednesday), and after that we are going to think about Crystal Palace."

However Everton boss Roberto Martinez thinks the cup win over City could be a factor, and is looking for a repeat performance at the Etihad.

The Toffees produced one of their best displays of the season to beat City 2-1 in the first leg of the semi-final last week, and return to Manchester looking for a repeat performance.

Martinez is confident his side can produce away from home, where they have lost just once all season.

"The previous time we faced Manchester City in August at Goodison, it was a very similar game," he said. "Both teams had chances but ultimately I don't think we showed enough belief that we could win the game.

"It was completely different in the League Cup semi-final. There was a complete focus on what we wanted to do and the belief that we were going to do that. The mentality has grown. That psychological aspect that we showed is exactly what we need.

"Any time you face the same team, it has an effect. We're looking to go to the Etihad and face the team with the best home record in the league.

"We feel very confident away from home, we've got a really good record. I can see a really tight game and the familiarity between the two sides can only help to make it a more interesting encounter if anything."

The Everton boss is hopeful of adding to his squad before the end of the January transfer window, with Dynamo Kiev striker Andriy Yarmolenko linked to follow Shani Tarashaj and Matthew Foulds through the door at Goodison Park.

Martinez denied knowing the Ukrainian's agent was at Goodison Park for the FA Cup win over Dagenham on Saturday but confirmed he has irons in the fire.

The Everton manager said: "We've been working really, really hard to get some business (done) really early. Shani Tarashaj was our target number one in terms of doing it quickly.

"We've got a couple of situations that could happen. The shape of the squad is going to be determined in the last week of the window and we want the squad to be stronger than it is now."

Martinez is also hoping to offload a couple of players on the fringes of the squad, with Aiden McGeady, Darron Gibson and Steven Naismith likely to depart during the window.

Gibson is included in the squad to travel to the Etihad, and Romelu Lukaku will lead the line after recovering from an ankle problem, while Ramiro Funes Mori is fit despite needing 10 stitches in a head wound sustained against Dagenham.

Tom Cleverley is a doubt because of an ankle problem while Seamus Coleman's calf injury will keep him out for another two weeks or so.

Martinez confirmed, meanwhile, that Tim Howard will return in goal despite a shaky season and Joel Robles' good form in the cups.

The Spaniard said: "Joel Robles has been terrific but Tim brings a unique experience and know-how. Of course you get good moments and bad moments like any player but we appreciate what Tim Howard brings on top of being in between the sticks."

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