Gareth Barry close to return for champions Manchester City

Roberto Mancini will be relieved that his 31-year-old midfielder is close to a return to protect a defence that has conceded five goals in three games already this season
Manchester City have been boosted by the news that midfielder Gareth Barry is nearing a return to the full squad after getting more game time with City's Elite Development Squad on Monday.

The defensive midfielder completed 45 minutes against Middlesbrough in August, and followed that up with 80 against Liverpool on Monday to get back on course for a return to Roberto Mancini's starting line-up.

“I’ve had two outings with the Elite Development Squad now, and I felt a lot better in the second game [Liverpool] so things are progressing nicely,” he told the club's official website.

Barry has been frustrated by accumulating injuries, forcing him to miss over three months of football: "I had a double hernia operation which meant an initial four weeks out, but then I tore a muscle in rehab which set me back a little bit, but I don't think I'm too far off now - touch wood! 

"I'm just taking things one day at a time but I'm feeling quite strong again which is really good.

"I'm not a good spectator and I don't enjoy watching the games – I'd much rather be out there playing so I'm obviously really looking forward to getting my season off and running again."

Given the nature of the injury, Barry was reluctant to put a specific time frame on his recovery, preferring to trust City's medical team rather than rush himself back: "The medical team and sports therapists will have a discussion, though I’m not asking too many questions.

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"I had a comeback date prior to the muscle tear, but things don't always go to plan."

While fellow defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong left for AC Milan in the summer, Barry's challenge of regaining his place in central midfield has been made harder by the arrival of midfielders Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia from Everton and Benfica, respectively.

However, with City conceding five goals in their opening three games of the Premier League campaign, Mancini will be relieved to have a strong defensive-minded member of his team available for selection again.

Barry also reflected positively on the fact that he has had a relatively injury-free career, one he intends to prolong: "Being out so long does give you time to think about things and it makes me realise how lucky I've been in terms of injuries and the amount of games I've played throughout my career.

"I've been training with the first team for a fortnight now and getting back into the swing of things again."