Roberto Mancini has talked up the role that Nigel De Jong can play in the New Year in the absence of Yaya Toure.

The Ivory Coast midfielder, along with his brother Kolo, travel to the African Nations Cup next month, and with The Elephants considered as one of the favourites, could be unavailable for his club until mid-Feburary.

But waiting in wings is De Jong, whose opportunities have been limited due to injury and the form of Toure in a city team who have endured just one defeat all season.

"We have won a lot of games and played very well with a different team, and for Nigel it’s been difficult," Mancini said. "He also had an injury in the first two months. He will be important now.

"It is a very big test to lose Yaya. He can play in different positions, and when he plays behind the strikers he is fantastic – he plays well and can score goals and change games for us. For this reason he is an important player for us.

"Nigel had that injury in the first two months and after that the team played very well with Gareth and Yaya in the middle.

"I don’t think Nigel is happy - there isn’t a player who is happy if he doesn’t play.

"But he is a serious professional player and I am sure that when he plays he will play very well."

Manchester City have requested that Toure could stay with the club until after the first-leg of the Carling Cup semi-final against Liverpool and the league match with Wigan Athletic on January 16th, a demand that won't be granted.

The 28-year-old will however be available to face Manchester United in the FA Cup on January 8th, the start of crucial phase that could shape the remainder of City's season.

"I think he will leave maybe after United, two weeks before the start of the African Cup," said Mancini. "If we can find another solution with the Ivory Coast federation, that will be good, but it is difficult.

"I hope we can keep him until the Wigan game but I have spoken to the Ivory Coast manager and I think it is difficult."

The Dutch in international has made just two league starts this season after picking up an ankle injury on the opening weekend of the season against Swansea City.

With only 18 months to run on his current deal at the Etihad Stadium, and with a deal yet to be put in place, the midfielder could be forgiven for not being fully focused on reclaiming his place in the City team, an opportunity he'll have come the New Year.

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