As Carlos Tevez nears fitness Sergio Aguero has 'stupid' injury

Manchester City's top scorer could be out for up to two weeks, while Roberto Mancini, the manager, says Tevez is unlikely to start against Sunderland.

Sergio Aguero, Manchester City's Argentinian striker, has been ruled out for the match against Sunderland.
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Just as Manchester City plan to use one Argentine striker rather more, they may be seeing rather less of another.

Carlos Tevez has assumed a greater importance in the run-in with Sergio Aguero sidelined by strange, and unexplained, circumstances.

The worry for Roberto Mancini is that his top scorer, with 24 goals, will miss much of the club's bid for a first title in 44 years. The best-case scenario is that tomorrow's game against Sunderland is the second and last he will sit out with an injury the manager described simply as "stupid".

"It's his foot," said the Italian, who was otherwise reluctant to elaborate. "It was not his fault. I hope he can recover for Arsenal next weekend but he can't play for one week, 10 days, maybe two weeks."

It is an inopportune time to lose Aguero: Edin Dzeko has a mere five goals in 25 matches; Mario Balotelli's only strike in five largely frustrating games was a penalty. It makes the case for Tevez increasingly compelling.

"I don't think Carlos can start against Sunderland, but he can play more now and he has improved," Mancini said.

After 41 minutes of first-team football in six months, after two cameos and one assist, after being persona non grata and public enemy No 1, Tevez is starting to look the pivotal striker at the manager's disposal. He could be centre-forward and centre of attention again.

He began a match with City's Elite Development Squad against Morecambe reserves on Wednesday and scored in a 6-1 victory, but he has not started a first-team fixture since September.

He has a record of making a difference at this stage of the season.

Four years ago, Tevez scored a late equaliser for Manchester United at Blackburn as they held off Chelsea to retain the title.

Now the scenario is different. City are chasing United. But with their neighbours visiting Blackburn on Monday, they have the chance to reclaim the lead in the league tomorrow.

It would help rebut suggestions that they are cracking under the pressure applied by their rivals, on and off the pitch. Sir Alex Ferguson's rhetoric has become particularly pointed and he branded Tevez's return "desperate".

Another significant comeback is that of the captain Vincent Kompany who, after four games on the sidelines with a calf problem, is set to reclaim his place in the middle of a defence still missing Joleon Lescott. But Sunderland, without the injured John O'Shea and the ineligible Wayne Bridge and with both Lee Cattermole and Kieran Richardson doubts, have worries of their own.

Victories have eluded City on the road; Sunderland defeated them at the Stadium of Light on New Year's day. But their home form has been impeccable.

Collect three points and City will equal the top-division record of 21 successive home league wins set by Bill Shankly's Liverpool in 1972.

Making history has long played a part in Mancini's thinking, and if it was not the landmark achievement he had in mind, it is a start.