African record man Bony poised for Manchester City debut

AP , Thursday 19 Feb 2015

Bony
Ivory Coast and Manchester City striker Wilfried Bony (Photo: Reuters)

Five weeks after his big-money transfer to Manchester City, Wilfried Bony is ready to play his first match for the English champions and give manager Manuel Pellegrini a selection dilemma up front.

Bony became one of the most expensive African players of all time when he joined City from Swansea for a reported 28 million pounds ($43 million) last month.

However, his involvement in the African Cup on Nations with Ivory Coast — the winner of the tournament — meant City has had to bide its time before playing the Premier League's most expensive signing in the winter transfer window.

That moment should arrive when Newcastle visits Etihad Stadium for a match that second-place City cannot afford to lose if it is to stay in realistic contention of catching Chelsea, which holds a seven-point lead with 13 games remaining.

Pellegrini may be tempted to start Bony, given the striker has scored three goals in his last two games against Newcastle.

"It's not easy because I've just arrived from Africa and I will have had five days of training before we play Newcastle," Bony said. "I have to take it step by step and wait for the right opportunity to present itself. If I am needed, I have a good record against Newcastle."

Bony's arrival — and the return to City of his international teammate, midfielder Yaya Toure — means Pellegrini will have to tinker with his attack for the last few months of the season.

The Chilean coach has largely done away with his favored 4-4-2 formation in recent months to ensure his midfield isn't over-run. That has often led to Sergio Aguero playing on his own up front, but it is likely that Pellegrini will eventually pair Aguero and Bony in attack. It remains to be seen who the fall-guy will be in midfield.

City has won only one of its last four league games at home, helping Chelsea pull clear again after having an eight-point lead wiped out by the champions this season.

Chelsea is at home to relegation-threatened Burnley, while the weekend's standout match sees Southampton host Liverpool — two teams fighting for Champions League qualification.

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