Micah Richards is targeting the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea as his return date from injury.
Pablo Zabaleta is the first choice right back at Manchester City, which means Micah Richards is going to have one hell of a task on his hands to win back his place in the first team under Roberto Mancini.
His return date has been changing ever since he went down in pain during the Premier League clash against Swansea City last year, which looked almost certain to keep him out for the rest of the season.
It could be very easy for City to rush him back as an important squad player, ahead of vital matches over the rest of the season but with the Premier League title almost a distant dream, the club have to focus on getting him fit for next season.
To throw him back into his right back spot right now risks alienating players who have performed admirably there, throughout his absence. Zabaleta has made the spot his own and he’s one of the club’s most important defenders.
If Richards is thrown in at right back for a massive tie like an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, then that does not send the best message out to other stars who have been fighting in that competition and others throughout the season.
It’s also a risk, which could backfire on the club if they start to get him back into match day squads before he is 100 per cent ready to play. Should he get injured, it’s going to be a decision which the club are massively criticised for.
City also need to baby him throughout the summer because of the rumours which are popping up on an almost daily basis, relating to the futures of key players at the club.
Several top quality defenders including Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure have been linked with exits away from the Etihad Stadium this summer with Kompany the subject of a possible Barcelona bid and Toure reaching the latter stage of his career.
That makes it all the more important to have a ready made, experienced and hungry defender to come in and do a job, at centre back if needed, which will reduce the chance of City suffering defensively as soon as the season starts.
Richards, through his own admission, has also highlighted areas of his technique which he thinks are the reasons he picks up injuries, which could be worked on and improved ahead of the new season.
He points to the way he goes for headers and flies into tackles as the main reasons he has picked up so many little niggling injuries throughout his career. While that’s not an odds on guarantee that he’ll hurt his knee again, it could give him another problem before this season is out.
Richards is almost a victim of his own eagerness because he’d jump at the chance to get back into the team right now if he could, ignoring the possibility that it may be sensible for him to wait, consolidate his role at the club and then fly into next season with a full pre-season behind him.
No professional player wants to stay out of the side for a long time but Richards is a young man at 24-years-old with his whole career ahead of him.
City fans, protect him or get him back into the team?
image: © geetarchurchy