• Manchester City face Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday
  • Yaya Toure is in contention to start for City in the Spanish capital 
  • The 32-year-old has failed to hit the highs of previous campaigns at City
  • City will hope Toure can conjour up some magic at the Santiago Bernabeu

Jack Gaughan for MailOnline

Manuel Pellegrini has two huge decisions to make in the hours leading up to one of the biggest nights in Manchester City’s history.

The first is whether Nicolas Otamendi or Eliaquim Mangala partner Vincent Kompany at the heart of their back four. The second is altogether more complex: to start or not to start Yaya Toure.

Toure’s weight in this City side has come under the sort of scrutiny he has never endured before, certainly a by-product of a season during which terrific results abroad have been offset by ‘difficult moments’ – as Pellegrini would call them – in the Premier League.

Manchester City will be hoping Yaya Toure (centre) can lead from the front in Europe on Wednesday night

Manchester City will be hoping Yaya Toure (centre) can lead from the front in Europe on Wednesday night

The Ivorian could start City's finely-poised Champions League semi-final second-leg clash at Real Madrid

The Ivorian could start City’s finely-poised Champions League semi-final second-leg clash at Real Madrid

Toure has endured a difficult season in Manchester, but the midfielder can still heavily influence a match

Toure has endured a difficult season in Manchester, but the midfielder can still heavily influence a match

There is a section of the City support who no longer see where he fits in and are left disappointed at dipped performances, an emotion almost definitely derived from his languid running style.

Yet as the Ivorian strode out at the City Football Academy on Monday morning – hours before confusion as to whether he had actually flown to Madrid for the Champions League semi-final second leg or not – there was a sense he is ready to play a part at the Bernabeu.

These are nights made for Toure, a central midfielder with the ego to dictate to Real Madrid at his own pace. If nothing else, he gives those around him a lift, always available during a game they will need to use possession wisely.

Recent history will offer the doubters ammunition, however. City came away from Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-final with a 2-2 draw without him and beat Laurent Blanc’s side at the Etihad Stadium with Toure only a late substitute. 

Manuel Pellegrini saw City overcome Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals without Toure primarily

Manuel Pellegrini saw City overcome Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals without Toure primarily

The towering midfielder missed the first leg and came on as a late substitute in the return fixture last month

The towering midfielder missed the first leg and came on as a late substitute in the return fixture last month

The 32-year-old flew with his team-mates on Tuesday to Madrid ahead of the Champions League semi-final

The 32-year-old flew with his team-mates on Tuesday to Madrid ahead of the Champions League semi-final

Pellegrini has evolved this team in European competition. They are more resilient, more street smart, keeping Zinedine Zidane’s fearsome attack – even without Cristiano Ronaldo – at bay last week. 

That clash was also minus Toure, again out with a niggling injury, this time in his thigh.

Herein lies Pellegrini’s dilemma: the Chilean cannot afford passengers on Wednesday night, even with terriers in tow, the inseparable Fernando and Fernandinho.

If there was an absolute guarantee of him swagging around controlling the tie, the manager would not think twice about having Brian Kidd pencil No 42 on their team-sheet.

But this season City fans argue there is no certainty of that. He has flickered, not shone as before.

City fans will be hope to see a rampaging, rather than sulking, Toure if he does start on Wednesday night
The midfielder has been in indifferent form throughout this term

City fans will be hope to see a rampaging, rather than sulking, Toure if he does start on Wednesday night

Toure, let us not forget, is one of the best midfielders in Premier League history. He, alongside Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, is the epitome of their staggering rise as a genuine force since moving from Barcelona in 2010.

There was the 2011 FA Cup semi-final against bitter rivals Manchester United where he ran Wembley, scored the winning goal and did exactly the same in May’s final with Stoke City. The 35-year wait for silverware was over, Toure an overnight legend.

His barnstorming display against United in what was coined the biggest Manchester derby ever the season after, was another reason for supporters to adore him. The Premier League title was to follow.

Toure’s affinity with the club was only growing until intervention from his apparent agent, Dimitri Seluk, citing birthday cakes – or lack of them – for wanting to depart. City, to their credit, have been able to manage that situation with minimal fuss.

And his future will again rear its head this summer. There is a debate as to whether incoming boss Pep Guardiola wants to keep him at the Etihad after difficulties together at the Nou Camp, but Toure wants to stay and fight for his place.

Toure was City's hero in the 2011 FA Cup semi-final by scoring the winner against Manchester United

Toure was City’s hero in the 2011 FA Cup semi-final by scoring the winner against Manchester United

Hwas on the scoresheet in the final  too as City defeated Stoke 1-0 to win end their 35-year wait for silverware

Hwas on the scoresheet in the final too as City defeated Stoke 1-0 to win end their 35-year wait for silverware

He is proving a helpful hand in the development of fellow African, Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho, and there is hope the maverick can still conjure some moments of magic before his time in this country is out.

Wednesday could represent an opportunity for such. If Toure is to start, Pellegrini needs to find him a role behind Aguero where he can hurt the hosts in pockets of the great Bernabeu expanse.

In Silva’s absence and question marks over Raheem Sterling given the defeat by Southampton, it would potentially involve Kevin De Bruyne switching to the left.

That would put Toure front and centre in the battle for a ticket to Milan – just how he has always liked it.

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