Manchester City predicted line-up v Sunderland

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Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini could have the luxury of starting 2015 with a starting 11 that includes a natural striker for the first time in five games when Sunderland visit on New Year's Day.

A striking injury crisis has left Pellegrini having to deploy James Milner as a makeshift forward in the last three games, with youngster Jose Angel Pozo also getting a chance to try his hand as a centre forward.

However, City could have a conventional striker for the opening game of the year with Stevan Jovetic back in contention.

The Montenegro striker has been on the substitutes bench for the last two games and could now make the starting lineup having fully recovered from injury.

However, Edin Dzeko and top scorer Sergio Aguero are still absent, meaning Pellegrini will likely be without a striker among his seven substitutes.

City have coped admirably in their absence, taking ten points from a possible twelve, scoring nine goals in the process.

Injury boost

Jovetic's return is a timely boost for Pellegrini who may now opt to dip into the January transfer market to boost his striking options.

Wilfried Bony has been linked with a possible £30million move once the window is open on Saturday, but Jovetic will hope to prove he can lead the line when Sunderland come to down.

The striker started the 2014/2015 campaign in fine form but has since suffered a number of niggling injuries, much like he did in his debut campaign in England.

Toure back, for now

Another man who could return to the City team is Yaya Toure, albeit briefly. The Ivorian midfielder was missing from the team that surrendered a 2-0 lead against Burnley with an unspecified injury.

However, the midfielder's return to the team is likely to be brief with the African Cup of Nations ruling him out for the majority of January.

His availability on Thursday will come as a boost with Frank Lampard due to miss out as a result of red tape regarding his loan deal.

City are hoping to extend his temporary move from sister club New York City but Premier League rules mean he could miss the Sunderland clash with his loan extension yet to be finalised.

Defensive decisions

Although boosted by the return of Toure and Jovetic, Pellegrini is likely to still be without his captain Vincent Kompany who is not yet fully fit after a calf problem.

The big defender limped off against Leicester earlier in the month and his manager may feel it's too soon to bring him back.

Martin Demichelis and Eliaquim Mangala have been paired in the centre of the defence during his absence and will continue their blossoming partnership.

At full-back Gael Clichy will hope to return in place of Aleksandar Kolarov, while Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta will continue to fight it out for a place on the right hand side of defence.

Predicted Starting XI

Hart; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Mangala, Clichy; Fernando, Fernandinho; Silva, Toure, Nasri; Jovetic

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