man city strike out

LONDON - Despite all their big spending, Manchester City look certain to be without four top strikers when they take on defending Premier League champions Manchester United in a local derby on Sunday.

LONDON - Despite all their big spending, Manchester City look certain to be without four top strikers when they take on defending Premier League champions Manchester United in a local derby on Sunday.

Emmanuel Adebayor is set to miss the game at Old Trafford because of suspension, Robinho and Roque Santa Cruz are injured and Carlos Tevez is also unlikely to face his former club because of a knee problem he picked up playing for Argentina.

Coming off a 4-2 victory over Arsenal and holding a record of four wins in four games, third-place Man City hope to underline their title claims by beating a team that has won the Premier League three seasons in a row and 11 times in 17 seasons.

If City pull off a victory under these circumstances, then the club now powered by the immense finance of an Abu Dhabi business consortium will demonstrate they have the talent to win the league title for the first time since 1968.

The absence of the four strikers is expected to leave City with the talented but erratic Craig Bellamy and the unpredictable Benjani Mwaruwari up front. United, however, can call on a wealth of attacking talent that includes Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen.

United are also buoyed by an impressive come-from-behind 3-1 victory at Tottenham last week to rise to second in the standings behind Chelsea.

Rooney will be eager to make a mark against City after showing his anger when he was substituted against Besiktas. United manager Alex Ferguson put that down to Rooney's winning mentality, saying his only concern for Sunday's game was the fitness of Rio Ferdinand.

"We'll have to wait and see," Ferguson said. "He felt his groin in training (after the victory at Tottenham), and we felt it wasn't worth the risk. We just have to give him every chance for Sunday."

Meanwhile, Chelsea have a three-point lead at the top of the standings and hope to maintain their perfect start of five wins in a row by beating Tottenham at home on Sunday.

Liverpool also won in the Champions League on Wednesday, edging Hungary's Debrecen 1-0 and hope to improve their Premiership chances by winning at West Ham tomorrow. Arsenal came from two goals down to win their Champions League game 3-2 at Standard Liege and lift confidence ahead of a home game against Wigan.

Tomorrow's other games are: Aston Villa v Portsmouth; Bolton v Stoke; Burnley v Sunderland and Hull v Birmingham.

On Sunday, it's Everton v Blackburn and Wolves v Fulham. - Sapa-AP

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