Last week marked the return of the African Cup of Nations, a competition which has impacted City’s title aspirations over the last few years, but this year with Yaya Touré staying put in England after his retirement from international duty and Nigeria’s failure to make the competition preventing Iheanacho’s call-up, only on-loan Wilfried Bony is representing Manchester City in the competition.
The Ivorian, playing his trade at Stoke on loan from City, albeit on the bench most weeks, has led the line for his country in the opening games of the competition. The current holders find themselves sitting 3rd in Group C after the opening two games. Bony was on target in the second for his first international goal since February 2015 with a header as his side came from behind twice to salvage a 2-2 draw against DR Congo. Ivory Coast are left needing a victory against Morocco on Tuesday evening to ensure qualification to the quarter finals.
Back home, it wasn’t a good weekend for the trio in England. Jason Denayer was once again in action for Sunderland who travelled away to the Hawthorns. Denayer, who naturally plays as a centre-back, featured in the centre of midfield with former blue Jack Rodwell, but was forced off with a late injury as his side fell to a 2-0 defeat against West Brom. Meanwhile, Aaron Mooy was absent from Huddersfield’s 2-0 victory at home to Ipswich Town, the Aussie midfielder was ruled out after suffering a back injury in training last week. In addition, Jack Byrne, who has recently seen his loan at Blackburn terminated, is still looking for a club, with reports claiming that he could be on the move to Dundee. Over in Scotland, Patrick Roberts continues his development, and the young winger was brought on for the final 15 minutes of Celtic’s 3-0 win away at Albion Rovers. Roberts was integral in the second goal, beating two defenders to set up Scott Brown, who played in the assist for Dembele’s 20th of the season. Then in the final minutes, Roberts got an assist of his own as he perfectly set up the final goal tapped in by Stuart Armstrong.
In Spain, Eliaquim Mangala is continuing to turn around his fortunes at Valencia. Under new interim manager Voro, the Frenchman has started to find some form and put in a man of the match performance away at Villarreal. Mangala made 10 clearances, won all of his tackles and didn’t commit a foul as Valencia defied the odds to pick up their first clean-sheet since April 2016. Mangala has formed a solid partnership with Ezequiel Garay in recent weeks and has heads turning in Spain. Does he still have a future at Manchester City?
Mangala dominated Villarreal. 100% in 10 clearances & 8 retrievals. A shame if Valencia miss out on UEFA & therefore signing him from City.
— Michael [VALENCIA] (@VCF_Nordic) January 21, 2017
Marlos Moreno was again named on the bench for Deportivo, however was substituted on in the final 10 minutes as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Las Palmas. Furthermore, amid rumours of a possible move to China this Summer, Samir Nasri was absent from Sevilla’s thrilling 4-3 away win at Osasuna. In the Segunda, City’s affiliate side Girona continued their promotion push, with Pablo Maffeo featuring at right-back as Girona beat Sevilla Atletico 2-0 at Estadi Montivili. However, despite Maffeo’s successes on his returning loan spell, it appears that the same cannot be said for Angeliño – it has been reported that Girona remain unconvinced by the young left back and he was yesterday left out of their squad.
From one affiliate club to another, NAC Breda made it four consecutive victories in the Dutch Eerst Divisie. At the Rat Verlegh Stadion on Friday evening, Breda were 2-0 victors as Manu Garcia bagged his first assist for the club since moving this month after his loan at Alaves was terminated. Ashley Smith-Brown kept his place at left-back while Thomas Agyepong also was in action for the full 90 minutes. Brandon Barker missed out through injury and it was too soon for James Horsfield to make his debut appearance after completing his loan to the Dutch side last week. Meanwhile, in the Eredivisie, the Manchester City trio of Bersant Celina, Enes Unal and Yaw Yeboah lined up for FC Twente who comfortably defeated relegation-threatened Heracles 1-0. Near the top of the table, 3rd placed PSV were 4-3 winners at home to Heerenveen. Oleksandr Zinchenko was on the bench for the home side as he continues to recover from his injury while City loanee Shay Facey was brought on for Heerenveen with 8 minutes to go.
Finally, we end in Italy on another disappointing weekend for Joe Hart at Torino. The Granata travelled away to Bologna as they looked to overcome their disappointing mid-week draw against Milan. On the day, despite Hart’s best efforts, he was unable to keep out two goals from former Bolton midfielder Blerim Dzemaili. Torino are on track for a disappointing campaign as they sit 9th in Serie A and are now 8 points off the Europa League places. Over at Genoa, it appears that Olivier Ntcham could be heading back to Manchester. The Frenchman has been linked with a move to Bournemouth and it is possible that he could make a move to the South Coast in the remaining days of the January transfer window.