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Manchester City's 'important month' begins with Salzburg

Roberto Mancini can chose from a near-full strength squad ahead of tonight's Europa League match against Red Bull Salzburg, as the Italian manager gears up for a crucial month of winter fixtures.

The Manchester club, currently joint-top of Group A, face bottom club Salzburg at The City of Manchester Stadium. The penultimate round of the group stage matches is the first of seven games for Mancini’s men between now and the end of December, a month that will also see his side face Italian giants Juventus, in Turin.

With the Christmas fixtures pile-up now upon English clubs, squad rotation over the next four weeks may prove to be crucial. City will know this more than most, especially as they have a tricky match on Saturday against in-form Bolton Wanderers: "We will have a strong team on the pitch [tonight] but we will change some players” Mancini claimed. ”We are playing two games in three days and that is difficult."

City can confirm their progression to the last 32 of the competition if they beat Salzburg, and Juventus fail to win against Polish club Lech Poznan.

The big plus for City is the expected return of influential midfielder Yaya Toure, who missed the 1-1 draw at Stoke this weekend with a migraine. Also returning is Pablo Zabaleta from suspension, and striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who has passed a fitness test on his groin and may start ahead of Carlos Tevez.

The Togolese striker, who has been linked with a move away from Eastlands over the last two weeks, has scored four goals in three games in Europe so far and is an attractive 4/1 to score the first goal tonight, should he start.

Perhaps the first sign that City may not field a regular starting eleven is in the ticket prices for the fixture; City have priced the match at £5 for adults, and just £1 for kids in an attempt to raise the expected attendances as minus temperatures and heavy snow falls over Manchester. For there to be just one goal in the match, you could find prices of 11/2. Should the Manchester club suffer a home loss, Salzburg are being priced as much as 14/1 for a win, odds that may interest some, considering Manchester City haven’t scored at home since the 21st October.

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