Manchester City v Fulham: Big Match Preview

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Man City: 25 Hart, 05 Zabaleta, 13 Kolarov, 17 Boateng, 19 Lescott, 28 K Toure, 18 Barry, 42 Y Toure, 10 Dzeko, 32 Tevez, 45 Balotelli

Substitutes: 12 Taylor, 57 Wabara, 07 Milner, 08 Wright-Phillips, 24 Vieira, 27 Jo, 60 Guidetti

Fulham: 01 Schwarzer, 03 Salcido, 05 Hangeland, 06 Baird, 18 Hughes, 13 Murphy, 16 Duff, 20, Etuhu, 23 Dempsey, 08 Johnson, 30 Dembele

Substitutes: 12 Stockdale, 02 Kelly, 11 Gera, 27 Greening, 29 Davies, 22 Gudjohnsen, 24 Kakuta

Joleon Lescott insists Manchester City's players are not looking for sympathy despite being faced with an exhausting schedule that is putting their dreams of a long-awaited trophy at risk.

Already committed to two games a week until the next international break at the end of March, City's problems will become even more acute should they draw Wednesday's FA Cup fifth-round tie with Aston Villa.

The replay would be wedged in between a Saturday tea-time Premier League encounter with Wigan and a 4,500km round-trip to the Ukraine for a Europa League last-16 encounter with Dynamo Kiev.

Manager Roberto Mancini has reacted angrily to the prospect of such a schedule, claiming the football authorities are treating players "like machines".

However, Lescott - who is preparing for Sunday`s Barclays Premier League clash at home to Fulham - is more circumspect.

The defender is more accustomed to the demands placed upon English stars than Mancini. And he accepts a backlog of games is the price to be paid for success.

"We are not looking for any sympathy," he said. "We want to play in these games.

"We want to win every game in every competition. We recognise that is not going to happen but we still have to try.

"Of course it is possible to keep pushing for the top four and win trophies. Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal do that every year and we don't look at ourselves as any different to those clubs.

"We know it is going to be tough. But if you are at the top or going to be one of the best, you will reach semi-finals and quarter-finals of competitions, which just means more games.

"It is going to be a long season but that is how we want it."

It has also to be noted that Mancini is not entirely blameless for his club's predicament.

Had they beaten lower league opposition in Leicester and Notts County at the first attempt, two extra FA Cup fixtures would have been avoided and the Villa tie could have taken place last weekend as scheduled.

In addition, it was Mancini's decision to reduce the numbers in his squad last month by allowing Roque Santa Cruz and Wayne Bridge to leave on loan, moves that have backfired given a growing injury list that could rule a host of players out of Sunday's encounter with the Cottagers.

Vincent Kompany (hip) is a major doubt while Micah Richards (calf), James Milner (hamstring), Nigel de Jong and Adam Johnson (both ankle) are all expected to miss out.

For Lescott, the clash has particular significance as it marks the first return to Eastlands of the man who brought him to City.

Mark Hughes spent £22million luring the 28-year-old from Everton in 2009, instantly anointing him as potentially the best central defender in England.

"It will be strange to be up against Mark Hughes," admitted Lescott.

"He brought me to the club and I owe him a lot.

"But there will be no friends when the whistle blows. I will pay him my respects after the game."

Fulham striker Bobby Zamora, who only last weekend returned from five months out with a broken leg, is a doubt having gone over on his ankle in training on Friday morning.

Midfielder Steve Sidwell has been ruled out for four weeks after damaging knee ligaments, while Philippe Senderos and Diomansy Kamara will also miss Sunday's match with back problems.

Fulham boss Hughes admits his players must make amends for their 4-1 thrashing by City earlier in the season to prevent this week's trip to Portugal being branded "a jolly".

Hughes took his side on a four-day mid-season training camp in a bid to kickstart a late surge up the Premier League table.

The trip was also designed as a bonding exercise and players were allowed to play golf and go fishing when they were not working.

Hughes is confident the camp will ultimately pay dividends but knows another heavy defeat against his former club on Sunday will raise questions about its value.

"You go for a break and the reasons for doing it are correct," he said.

"But if you get beaten then people think you've been on a jolly. That's always the danger.

"We are hoping to get the right reactions.

"It was good for the guys to get together.

"They have never been taken away and, as a consequence, they really enjoyed it."

Regarding his first visit to Eastlands since he was sacked as Blues boss just over a year ago, Hughes said: "I know I can walk through the doors with my head held high and look everyone in the eye, because of the job I did there.

"Whether or not that can be said of some people there, that is for you to decide."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Manchester City
Premier League
Joleon Lescott

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