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Match preview: Dynamo Kiev v City

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Little respite then at what is fast becoming a crucial stage of the season.

First up, a tricky away first-leg in the Europa League in Kiev, with the return next Thursday and sandwiched by the FA Cup quarter-final tie at home to Reading on Sunday (and not to mention a trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea also on the horizon).

Much of the talk (admittedly from within the club itself) has been about the potential fatigue the squad is facing, exacerbated by recent injuries that have left Mancini with few alternatives as he attempts to juggle two sets of fixtures on a now regular basis.

There are several key members of the side: Hart, Kompany, de Jong, Barry, Yaya Toure, Silva and Tevez who have been virtual ever-presents, but injuries have curtailed hopes Mancini has had of spelling them of late. In particular, Barry and Yaya Toure surely need a game or two out and the hope is that the returning Nigel de Jong, in addition to James Milner (and hopefully Adam Johnson) can pick up some of the slack.

There has been a suggestion that the Europa League could be jettisoned and a shadow side fielded, but we saw against West Brom in the Carling Cup that wholesale changes backfired badly. Given the effort the side has made in getting to this stage, I doubt Mancini is ready to throw in the towel in one of the competitions; especially given the urgency in landing a trophy.

Having taken a strong squad to Kiev, more likely is that Mancini will look to rotate two or three players in whenever and wherever he feels necessary, a potentially risky strategy in that it could be to the detriment of the season as a whole, but crucially one that also brings with it the greater chance of reward.

Recent comments from Mancini do suggest that we may not see all three of Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko together, whilst there has been reports that Shaun Wright-Phillips will get a rare start. Back to fitness (with a brief run-out) on Saturday against Wigan, Nigel de Jong may also spell one of Patrick Vieira, Gareth Barry or Yaya Toure.

Kiev of course impressively defeated Besiktas 8-1 in the previous round, proving that they will be stern opposition and City will have to contend with both the cold (reportedly -10c) and rumoured poor pitch. They have recently returned from their winter break, so will be far fresher than City yet may not be as match sharp or ready.

I'm sure Mancini would be delighted to come away with a goalless draw this evening, but even a one goal deficit (ideally with an away goal) would surely be satisfactory.