Yaya Toure is set to play as a defensive midfielder in Manchester City’s crunch clashes with Chelsea and his former club Barcelona.
Fernandinho, who has partnered Toure in the centre of the City midfield, is likely to miss both games with the muscle injury that has also prevented him from playing in their last two matches.
And manager Manuel Pellegrini plans to use Toure, who has scored 15 goals in a more advanced position this season, in the deeper role that the Brazilian usually occupies.
Javi Garcia, another holding player, is also sidelined and while Pellegrini praised defender Martin Demichelis for his performance in midfield in last Monday’s 1-0 defeat to Chelsea, the Argentine was criticised by many others and his manager wants the former Atletico Madrid man in his back four.
So the City manager has concluded that Toure is his best option to anchor the midfield against Chelsea in the FA Cup on Saturday and in the first leg of City’s Champions League tie with Barcelona three days later.
He said: “Without Fernandinho and Javi Garcia, the only player that can do it is Yaya. Martin Demichelis can also do it, and did it very well against Chelsea, but with Demichelis and [Vincent] Kompany we have a strong defence, and defended very well against Newcastle and Norwich.”
Toure, who had been accused of spending too much time in attack this season, played as a defensive midfielder in Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Norwich and will continue there in Wednesday’s clash with Sunderland.
And Pellegrini added: “Maybe if I have to change, we will see in the future but for the moment Yaya will stay there.
“Yaya is also very important going forward but when he was going forward, everyone was asking why he didn't defend more! For the moment he will continue to play there, and we will see how we arrange the other things.”
Pellegrini retains hope that midfielder Samir Nasri will return from his knee injury in time to face Barcelona, saying: “We will see in the next few days, up until Saturday. I think there is a chance.”
However, Fernandinho and striker Sergio Aguero are unlikely to be fit.