An interesting piece from Henry Winter in todays Telegraph:
The temporary absence of all his expensive attacking superstars for Sunday's derby may appear a cruel conspiracy to City, but it also provides an opportunity for Hughes to show how he can juggle depleted resources, how he can devise a game-plan to frustrate the champions.
Hughes is such a competitor that he is hardly likely to wave the white flag at losing Emmanuel Adebayor to suspension, probably for four games, and Robinho, Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz to injury.
Hughes will remind his players that so many people hope the City "project'' implodes. "Go out and prove them wrong,'' will be the gist of Hughes's speech. Having got his players' minds right – and he is fortunate that men such as Gareth Barry, Nigel de Jong, Stephen Ireland and Craig Bellamy will relish the challenge – Hughes must set the team up to stifle United and counter swiftly.
Winter is right and I think this is the angle that Hughes takes with the squad.
Whilst Bellamy will be more than up against it as a lone man against Ferdinand and Vidic, his attitude could well set the tone for the rest of the team, and indeed the game.
Hughes's re-assembling of the squad over the past twelve months was designed to weed out those he felt did not fit, and those that arrived possessed a more strong-willed and determined character - players in his own image if you will.
Sunday will be exactly the type of game Hughes brought these players in for. A tough, uncompromising fixtures that if we are to throw off the shackles of the past we need to take points from.
Big sides often batten down the hatches and cry 'siege mentality' and this week could well be a unifying moment for a squad that has been portrayed as one that will fall up the moment things don't go their own way.
What has been noticeable this season is that the team that has been fielded appears well-drilled and to know their roles and what is expected of them.
In days gone by, a line-up shorn of as many first choice players as we will be on Sunday would be a precursor for capitulation.
The impression so far is that this squad is made of stronger stuff.
Time will tell.