Sunday, 19 October 2014

Post Spurs / Pre CSKA

The Spurs game had almost everything; mostly good but some not-so.

 

Great result though and if we are to salvage anything from a below-par start to this season’s Champions League campaign then it has to start with the same result against the Russians.


Pluses & minuses v Spurs…


Let’s get the minuses out of the way first.

Lampard’s injury looked like one of those that could side-line him for a few weeks – going down clutching your hamstring area is never a good thing. I’ve not heard anything as yet with regards of how serious / how long out. He had a good influence on the game for the 20-odd minutes he was on the pitch. Hope to see him back soon.

Fernando will have better games. I thought the M.E.N.’s rating of 6/10 was very kind indeed. It wasn’t just him-getting dispossessed for their only goal; I thought he was having a ‘mare’ in general. The same local Manchester paper added that apart from that slip the ex-Porto player went on to make some important tackles and interceptions. He did…but he looked more like an octopus ‘out of water’ in this game; he looked out somehow out of sorts and, perhaps, like he was trying too hard [to make up for his earlier error].

I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him for the most part and so, as I say, he’ll have far more better games that this one [to forget]. Get’s a 4 from me…

The centre of defence was ‘off’. Let’s not forget – and I said this before the game – Spurs, under Mauricio Pochettino, are a very good side that pose teams a lot of threat at times. They’re a lively bunch that’s for sure. But I thought our defence was a bit all over the place and a little panicky at times yesterday.

Like Fernando (and perhaps his off-day wasn’t helping the situation) Kompany has had better games and the usual calming influence of Demichelis wasn’t on show either. Good job both Clichy & Sagna had good games.

Although I thought it was at the time, I’ve since seen footage a number of times and their penalty wasn’t a penalty. Good job the resulting spot kick was weak (along with a decent save from Hart).

The plusses.

I’ve given praise to both Gael & Bacary but to make up for our soft centre yesterday Joe was immense! Some of the shots were ‘at him’ but he made himself big plenty of times yesterday…and literally saved us at 2-1. A excellent 9/10 game from England’s number 1.

Milner again was excellent. His energy and link-up play came into its own as Spurs ‘faded’, which James never does. He’s just gone into my Premier League Fantasy Football team not least for minutes played of late. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Nasri is back from injury but James has already well established himself as a vital component. It’s his shirt to lose…

Aguero the destroyer! Even looking ‘sore’ as he did, at times yesterday, he was not only deadly where it counted but his work-rate and body strength was colossal yesterday. Those early, extra strengthening sessions before each & every training session seem to be doing the trick [to keep last season’s ‘niggles’ at bay].

Get him in a hydro-pool, wrap him in cotton wool and keep those strengthening sessions going City…

Loved the song the City fans came up with and sang at the Spurs fans towards the end. To the tune of Joy Division’s “Love will tear us apart” we sang, “Ciii…ty tearing Tottenham aparrrt, a-gain.

One bloke was singing on the way out of the ground, “…tearing cockneys aparrrt, a-gain”, which it might well have been. Either way it works really well.

We’re not really here. No…really.


It’s been well publicised that Tuesday night’s game (5:00pm KO BST) is being played behind closed doors. And so one dedicated – some might say mad – bunch of City fans have splashed out a total of around £5,000 to fly over to….watch the game.

Where from? Well, as some Bayern fans had previously done; they’ve rented a flat in an adjacent building that towers over the ground so that they can watch their beloved Blues. Presumably they’ll be packing binoculars as well as their toothbrushes…

Quickly onto my prediction for the starting 11 etc.


v CSKA Moscow

4-4-2:

____________________Dzeko__________


__________Jovetic___________________

 
 

Milner_______________Toure______Silva

________Fernandinho________________
 
 


 

 
________________Hart________________
 

Subs: Caballero, Clichy, Sagna, Demichelis, Fernando, Navas, Aguero

I’ll start from front to back and make immediate note of Aguero’s absence from the starting line-up. It might seem crazy to suggest but, as I’ve already alluded to, our Argentinean battleship appeared to be listing slightly…despite systematically taking Spurs apart on Saturday. I was surprised, in fact, to see him play the full 90+; expecting him to be substituted with 15 or 20 minutes to go to rest / protect him.

For all those reasons - and the fact that we have an early KO (again!) this time in the capital against an in-form West Ham side - I think our ‘Engineer’ will want to ‘bench’ Sergio as a possible impact player should he be required. Step forward then, I think, Edin & Stevan.

With us still-having no Samir Nasri available I think the ‘can seemingly run for ever’ James (HAHM-ez) Milner gets yet-another go on the left-hand-side. And although I don’t want us to over-use our midfield magician; David was withdrawn on 70 minutes against The Lilywhites and so I think he’ll feature once again in Russia.

Yaya was mostly rested (and looked quite sharp) at the weekend and so, for me, he definitely starts. And I’ve just got the feeling that the ‘inho’ version of our ‘Ferds’ will get the nod for this one – I’m sure the shorter-named one will get his place back against The Hammers…

The rested pair of Aleks & Pablo should swap places in the rotating left & right-back slots; Vinny to continue and, hopefully, Eliaquim to join him. I really do hope we see this pairing get some quality game-time now and start to make this potentially exciting partnership work.

I see the Pepe rumours are surfacing once again

Before the Spurs game I was going to suggest that Caballero might get a run-out against CSKA but after Hart’s exceptional showing against the North Londoners, I think Pellegrini would be hard-pushed to leave him out now.

Beside, similar to my wish for the Kompany / Mangala partnership to get some real traction soon and flourish; a steady relationship with an established keeper is also integral to a good, solid defence. I just wonder how much patience our Willy has though…

So…Caballero as back-up, along with defensive insurance of Clichy, Sagna and Demichelis. Despite us being away and him being the more defensive of the two; Fernando slips to the bench for this one. Navas & Aguero as two frightening impact players should they be needed.

Result? It’ll be a strange one for the players in-hearing their own echoing shouts to their teammates in a stadium devoid of fans. But if it IS going to have any negative impact on the players it’ll be more on the CSKA lads, I’m sure.

Not just for that fact, though, I think this one has a City win written all over it. The players KNOW that they have to win this one (and more of course) and will go ‘all out’ I’m sure.

CSKA must have something about them at home; at home they, “only”, got beat by Bayern 1-0. But then they simply got destroyed away at Roma 5-1.

With us playing on Tuesday and, therefore, having a full 3 ½ days before the early afternoon kick off against the East Londoners; the players can afford to put extra effort into this one. As I say, it’s an away win for me.

Friday, 17 October 2014

A bit of a ‘late one’…

…for a bit of an ‘early one’.

Sorry, not for the first time, for the lateness and lack of blog-posting this week. I appear to be coming to the end of a difficult period family-wise (hope so anyway) that clearly affects my time with regards to Blogging.

Thanks, as always, for your patience.

 

Question marks

 
As is always the case following (another damn) international break it leaves question marks against your players with regards to injury and / or general fitness & fatigue. I was going to attempt a posting as early as Thursday but it didn’t work out and so, I suppose, posting one just 6 hours before the game gives me the advantage of having far better, more up-to-date information about who is, isn’t and might be available to play early Saturday afternoon (12:45pm KO BST).
 
Out is definitely Eliaquim Mangala who, Manuel tells us, should be okay for the trip to CSKA Moscow on Tuesday night; a televised game to be played behind closed doors due to the previous behaviour of the home fans.
 
Nasri too is still about a week away from re-joining training with his colleagues.
 
Kolarov, Toure & Jovetic all arrived back late and although they carry no injuries, they may only make the bench due to excess travelling and a lack of game preparation time. Jovetic, however, got some crucial ‘game time’ for his country and came though that with no issues.
 
Fernandinho, we are told, is fit and has no problems; this following reports that his injury against Aston Villa was not going to clear up in time.
 
Although others, including Demichelis and Aguero, travelled long distances also, they arrived back slightly earlier; Martin having not-even come off the bench and Sergio only playing the first 60 minutes of his country’s last game.
 
There have been “issues” surrounding some of our stars whilst they’ve been away; the worst so far being that of the disgraceful scenes between Albania and Aleks’ Serbia. Although, from what I’ve seen and understand, the Albanian players appeared to come off far ‘the worse’, I’m sure it must have affected the Serbian lads too; including our own Kolarov of course.
 
And after a traumatic time personally at the end of last season, Yaya and his African colleagues now find themselves in a situation where their long-awaited (due to a year-delay ‘reshuffle’) African Nations Cup competition may be cancelled due to the horrendous Ebola crisis. Concerns too for the travelling Ivorian star were put to Pellegrini in his pre-match press conference. I’m sure some of the players concerned have friends and relatives who know people caught up in the catastrophe.
 

Straight to it then…

 
 
With the clock ticking down on this late posting of mine I’ll get straight onto trying to predict our manger’s starting 11, subs and ‘match outcome’. This, as I’ve already alluded to, is made more difficult on this occasion due to the afore mentioned, various fitness issues.
 
 
4-4-2:
 
____________________Dzeko__________
 
 
__________Aguero___________________
 
 
 
 
Milner_______________Silva______Navas
 
_________Fernando__________________
 
 
 
Clichy__Demichelis__Kompany__Zabaleta
 
 
 
 
_________________Hart________________
 
 
Subs: Caballero, Kolarov, Sagna, Fernandinho, Toure, Lampard, Jovetic
 
I think the keeper and the back 4 pretty much pick themselves for this one; I suppose we could see Sagna start if Zabaleta too had a long journey and tiring game-play with Argentina…but I think we’ll see Zaba start this afternoon.
 
Similarly I don’t think there’s any doubt in the defensive midfield position, which should see a start for Fernando. Silva ‘attacking’ and flanked by Milner and Navas.
 
Now this too comes with some possibility of error - Frank Lampard has, for example, had a big rest and buoyed too, I’m sure, by his recent ‘Player of the Month’ award; he could well be thrust straight into this one from the start. If that’s the case then Jesus will most likely be the one to step down; switching Silva more out wide (but still ‘floating’ of course) and ‘Lamps’ in the middle. But I’m sticking with my prediction above.
 
Front two of Edin & Sergio is almost a given for this game.
 
As for the bench…
 
More than decent goalkeeping insurance, of course, and despite the notable lack of any obvious central defensive cover in my ‘18’; that’s a strong, strong bench.
 
Cover on the defensive flanks also comes with the ability, if needed, of Sagan; who can operate as a central defender we were told when he signed.
 
As for the rest…huh, well, there’s some serious ‘impact’ and ‘game changing’ players there should they be required.
 
And “required” I think they will be. I’ve got a lot of time for Mauricio Pochettino and he brings to a Spurs side full of talented players exactly what he brought to his exciting Southampton side last season. He has ‘em organised at the back – they don’t concede many – and can definitely hurt you on the break.
 
And that’s not to suggest for one moment that they are a ‘sit deep and counter’ type team either – I find that Pochettino’s sides are flowing, open, attacking ones…just with a bit of added steel at the back thrown in for good measure.
 
Result? There’s no doubting that this will be a very good game indeed and with the added ‘doubts’ that inevitably follow an international break [with regards to how your players return & react] it does rather make this a difficult one to predict. But that’s what I have to do.
 
Last season saw us utterly smash a very different Spurs side home and away in an amazing 11-1 league aggregate; this time will be a little closer I’m sure. What I’m going for is a close start to the game, perhaps even coming in at half time with a 0-0 or 1-1.
 
However, I think we’ve got enough ‘gears’ in us – especially with that bench – to take these today and, eventually, to take them quite comfortably. At home, it’s a City win and one by a decent (perhaps slightly flattering?) margin…in the end.
 
Due to the lateness of this this pre-match Blog posting I haven't the time to comment on the fantastic cup victory of our women's team (and terrific, title-deciding win over Chelsea just before that too). I'll give them far more 'Blog time' soon...

Saturday, 11 October 2014

If it moves…or even if it doesn’t…stick a sponsor on it!

Okay, this sort of shenanigans has been going on for YEARS with clubs of all shapes and sizes in all sports. And we too have been doing it increasingly so over the years.

But with F(not-so)FP now in danger of quashing the rights of owners to allow their club to join the big players at the big table; clubs like ours are having to find more inventive ways of combating UEFA’s restrictions.


Sauce for the goose…


Well Manyoo recently pulled off one HELL of a 10-year deal with Adidas worth a WHOPPING £750M and that, largely, helped to fund what can only be described as fantasy football-like spending on attacking players in the summer. So, not to be completely outdone at least, it’s recently been announced that we are about to extend our current deal with Etihad worth a more-than considerable £320M!

Not only that but with a variety of other new sponsorship deals ‘in the bag’ and about to be announced also, we can add to that already-considerable figure a further £80M! All of this, we are told, will produced a rather large ‘drip’ ‘drip’ of £50M per season of incoming funds. Nice.

It’s even nicer when you think that all of this will come on top of other income from various sales, television deals and competition progress & success etc. For the non-financial expert that I am, this would appear to have completely killed off any fears that we can no longer continue to spend with the ‘big boys’ AND stay within the rules that are being, quite-rightly, challenged ‘as we speak’.

Counter productive


I could probably type all day and night about how wrong I believe UEFA’s ill-advised rules on spending are; certainly starting with the most obvious point that the aim of the rule was to stop new owners allowing their club to spend BEYOND their means and, therefore, run football clubs into the ground and out of business. It was all very well meaning before it got all skewed out of all shape and proportion.

But these latest developments from both the Stretford and Manchester clubs respectively highlights, for me, the ironic outcome of the soon-to-be, hopefully anyway, unlawful rules, which is that football clubs are now FORCED to strike up far more lucrative deals in order to simply counter UEFA’s mad, mad regulations.

Clubs were always going to bring in money via sponsorships, of course, but I have a very strong feeling that the level of sponsorship and cash that we’re seeing now wouldn’t have been anywhere NEAR as high if it wasn’t for these distorted sanctions that loom over us all.

Not only are football clubs finding ways to raise cash to compete against rival clubs but they are now facing a twin battle against UEFA too! Utterly crazy - F(not-so)FP is now having the complete opposite affect!

Mmmm...indeed.
As I say, whether it moves or it doesn’t there’s a good chance it’ll get a sponsor slapped on it from now on so be careful whenever you’re walking anywhere near the Etihad

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Victory at the Villa heading into the break

To beat a stubborn Aston Villa side it took patience, inventiveness and a some in-game flexibility and tactical nous from our manager; following his quite-deserved slating of his rigid 4-4-2 in Europe.


Same start but “change” proved a point…for me at least.


I was fairly sure before the game that our ‘Engineer’ was going to adopt a slightly different tactic than he has shown in the Premier League; at a resolute Villa side on their own patch it just screamed for something a little different than a 4-4-2 with a increasingly frustrating (again!) and largely immobile Edin as one of the front-two-pairing.

I was slightly heavy hearted and a little concerned if I’m being honest when I saw the starting 11 in some ways; Kolarov on the left of defence gave me a few pre-game butterflies and with no Navas and the afore mentioned ‘Lamppost’ up front, our attack just looked a little stale-looking on paper; despite the likes of Silva & Aguero being on the pitch.

And it looked like my fears were being borne out for much of the first half, as we found it difficult to break down the claret-shirted defence. And our ‘passing radar’ appeared to be ‘off’ before the break, both in midfield and defence - in fact there was a scary moment or two in defence in the first half that was simply caused by our own self-destruct-like, miss-passing.

We just looked a little 'out of sorts' despite the over all controlling possession (after a brief & lively spell from Villa early on in the game).

And then, I’ve since learnt, Alan Shearer as a Match of the Day pundit criticised us and, in particular, our poor passing; summing up by saying that it was a poor display in general. I still haven’t seen it on iPlayer and don’t intend to watch it now…

But having just said similar myself, I can’t say that I entirely disagree with his alleged comments. I thought we looked sort of rusty and ‘off key’. But that was all in the first half and if what I am being told is accurate about the ex-Southampton, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United and England forward’s comments, then he appears to have gone a little ‘over the top’ and hasn’t provided a whole-game, balanced view.

In the second half I thought the City tempo was up, the passing improved considerably and, in general, we looked more threatening. However, there’s was still something missing…and we still had a floundering and completely ineffective Bosnian striker on the pitch. That was until, on 64 minutes, Dzeko was replaced by Fernando.

The Injured Fernandinho had already been replaced by the more attacking threat of Frank Lampard but as soon as we had our main anchor back [in Fernando] when replacing ‘Lamppost’, we really came into our own. It was the formation and, perhaps, even personnel we should have started with (allowances made of Fernando’s return to fitness aside).

It made ALL the difference and with threats now coming from more areas of the pitch from deeper and from all angles; Villa ‘backed off’ and we eventually cracked them. It took wonderful goals from Yaya & Sergio but we did it…and we deserved it Mr Shearer.

With Yaya not only being under general scrutiny over the last few weeks from all sorts of punditry an’ the like; leading up to the televised 5:30pm KO (BST) Sky Sports then racked-up the pressure and scrutiny even more! Not only was this done with intense analysis of the player’s recent performances but, disgustingly, by also sticking a camera right into his face for ages as he warmed up with his colleagues before the game. I’ll be disappointed if MCFC don’t complain to Sky about that over-intrusion and 'stepping over of the line' for me…

Summary


Although I take great heart in the fact that our manager and his team can see issues during games and have the insight to changes things considerably for the better; I just hope that the same management team now sees the benefits of, perhaps, STARTING games differently than 4-4-2 at times; particularly if one of the “2” is a certainly curate’s egg…and one which is starting to smell more ‘off’ than good.

I hope Jovetic can remain fit and recapture his pre-season / early season form…

Special mention to Kolarov for a fine performance…and coming from me that’s VERY high praise indeed! He didn’t appear to be tested defensively for whatever reason (and somewhat thankfully) but his attacking play was excellent on Saturday evening.

David Silva gets special, SPECIAL mention – once again he was awesome and certainly my MotM.

A couple of wobbly moments between Kompany and Mangala but, as I’ve said, our midfield / defence created our own problems in the first half with some poor passing. In the second half they looked more calm and in control.

Break


I don’t like international breaks and although this one has some meaning – being, as it is, for the Euros and not just ‘friendlies’ – it’s even more frustration that the Premier League’s stop / start season…as flippin’ well stopped once again! Before the resumption in the middle of October against Tottenham Hotspur we will have only played-out SEVEN league games!

I hope that when officials start moaning AGAIN about a jam-packed Christmas fixture list that they take a look back and finally realise that we all-too-often create our own issues earlier on in seasons…

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Post-Roma / pre-Villa

Sorry, once again, for a delay in ‘posting’. Not for the first time have situations [since the Roma game on this occasion] got in the way of me ‘Blogging’. Huh…life hey?


Inflexibility and disappointment


I rarely have a go at our manger – why would I, he’s done very good by us in the main since his arrival. But, like many, I said before the Roma game that he should adapt a different mentality – and certainly formation – when playing in Europe and his failure to do so cost us.

An injury-hit Roma side were, okay, but they were no Bayern Munich and were there for the taking at home on Tuesday night. We missed an opportunity to make amends for the travesty of the last-minute goal in Germany and although there’s 4 more games to go, I fear the worse in this competition now.

What is “fearing the worse”?

Well for me it’s the often-dreaded possibility of finishing 3rd [rather than 2nd or 4th] and slipping into the Europa League. Now I need to be very clear here in that, unlike a heck of a lot of footy fans of ‘top sides’, I do not pour scorn on this competition. For me, as a Manchester City fan, it would be wrong to do so this early on in our development as a trophy-seeking football club. This one still holds some value for me and still carries some prestige in my eyes; even though most seem to see it as the League Cup of Europe.

No, instead my fear is also one shared by many, which is that your team is then flung into the Thursday night Europe / Sunday afternoon Premier League scenario; often the cause of disruption to domestic affairs (for whatever strange reason). As I still hold ‘all things domestic‘ in higher regard than European ventures at this moment in time, this would be a bad thing for me personally.

Back to the game…


Why did he go 4-4-2, especially knowing that one if his strikers is less than mobile? We use to have a player at City many years ago called David Brightwell (brother of Ian…and “son of Ann Packer & Robbie Brightwell) and for his lack of mobility and general ‘statue-like’ performances, a few of us used to nickname him “lamppost”. In my mind – and in most gamesEdin Dzeko is starting to adopt that less-than-flattering nickname.

And at the back…didn’t we bring in the pace & power of Mangala for these very occasions? What the ‘eck was Pellegrini thinking in choosing Martin over Eliaquim for this one? Please tell me it wasn’t a reaction to his ‘off day’ at Hull City 3 days earlier.

At home – and with a thin midfield against theirs – Yaya was largely ineffective again, as was Fernandinho. How much of that WAS down to them and their general, sluggish start to the season or their manager’s choice of formation in this game is open to debate.

T’was good to see Jovetic get a small run out.

It was a bit of a shocking [low] crowd too; a bit of an embarrassment to be honest. This is a good piece regarding that and the night in general.

Roma fans behaved from what I observed, which was good. But I have never seen that level of pre-match security at our ground for the away fans. It was “proper”. I counted 37 (minimum) different Police vehicles in the main, away car park alone; a lot of riot-clad officers, larger than normal barriers and a couple of airport-like detectors that fans had to walk through as well as being searched. My suspicions about their rumoured reputation was certainly a shared one but, thankfully, nothing transpired as far as I know.

So…back to ‘bread & butter’ then


Aston Villa in the Premier League and, so, 4-4-2 right? Well I’m sure our Manuel will want to deploy that formation but, as is becoming the theme lately, I’m not sure I would.

Despite ‘goals from the pair’ over the last few seasons whenever they’ve played together, I’m becoming less and less convince that the Aguero / Dzeko ‘combo’ is as effective an attacking force as we can have – and isn’t it all about putting your most effective team out?

There’s a red (one who actually goes to games regularly!) in my place of work; a rather eccentric fellow who is so anti 4-5-1 / 4-6-0 he appears to be genuine when he repeatedly says the line,

“The FA, UEFA & FIFA should ban teams from having a goalkeeper if they play with one striker”.

Mind you we’re also talking about the same chap who believes that fullbacks shouldn’t cross the half-way-line…

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good 4-4-2. A perfect combination for me, in fact, is a tricky, skilful winger on one side and on the other, a fella with blistering pace! Both must be able to cross a ball with accuracy most of the time too, of course, and then sticking a couple of different-sized, quality strikers in there to receive those crosses and I too would like to think it’s a formula that works. Sometimes it does.

But that formation / structure is also reliant on having two, quality, disciplined and energetic central midfielders ‘in there’ these days and whenever it WAS that teams started to play with more than 4 midfielders – or having one of their two strikers come deeper as a kind of ‘link man’ in an almost attacking, advance midfield role – whenever faced with that you sometimes have to accept that you may get overrun and will, therefore, be forced to adapt; almost ‘fighting fire with fire’ if you will.

Magnifying glass out…


Before their recent back-to-back, 3-0 defeats at home to Arsenal and away at league leaders Chelsea, it’s notable that Villa kept 3 clean sheets when winning 3 and drawing 1. Now you could, of course, analyse each of those 4 games (and Villa players) and try to assess how they did it. Certainly Manchester City, like most top sides these days, have their own department for that…and far better people than I with far more time could also provide a much better and complex report on our next opponents.

I’ve had a quick look at what I wanted to focus on, which was the possession.

  • Stoke City 0-1 Aston Villa: Villa 38% overall game possession
  • Aston Villa 0-0 Newcastle United: Villa 40% overall game possession
  • Aston Villa 2-1 Hull City: Villa 45% overall game possession
  • Liverpool 0-1 Aston Villa: Villa 26% overall game possession
So…from this basic analysis we can see (God that came out in my head in a German accent - I sounded like some old, wild-haired professor) that whether at home or away - and throughout 3 victories and a draw - Villa had much less possession than their opposite number; massively so in two of those games!

Conclusion? Well it says to me that they defend very well and, again without digging too deep, it could mean that they DON’T, in fact, play with great numbers in midfield…or it could mean that their midfield is just pretty bobbins.

Either way, their lack of possession does strongly suggests that they don’t hold onto the ball too much in the middle; DO defend very well and, perhaps, then hit teams on the break. Well…we certainly felt the force of that one ourselves last season in that bizarre 3-2 defeat at Villa Park; where we destroyed them for the most part but just didn’t kill ‘em off.

That day we played with 2 strikers in Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko in a very-much old fashioned 4-4-2, as both strikers aren’t ones who like to ‘come deep’ and are, instead, very much ‘in front of goal’ men. Milner & Nasri were the wing men that game with Toure & Fernandinho providing the only central midfield substance (notable absentees that day were Silva & Aguero).

Leading 2-1 as the game approached the last quarter of an hour, Villa slammed in a well-placed free kick and 90 seconds or so later; they broke, sliced through us like the proverbial hot knife and they ‘smashed and grabbed’ 3 points.

Getting to the point, then…


 
Despite having ALL THREE strikers available today I’d start with just one, with David Silva the more ‘advanced floater’ just behind. And do you know what, I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest that ‘The Engineer’ might just be tempted to do so too.

My Pellegrini-predicted line-up:

v Aston Villa

4-4-1-1:

_______________Aguero_______________

 

________________Silva________________

 

Milner____Toure___Fernandinho___Navas


 

Kolarov___Mangala___Kompany___Sagna
 

 

_________________Hart________________

 
Subs: Caballero, Clichy, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Fernando, Jovetic, Dzeko

A decent side and 'set up'...and one I mostly agree with.

I, personally, would go with Clichy & Zabaleta as the stronger of the two defenders away from home and, in particular, with the pace Villa seem to have down their right-hand-side it worries me a little to start with Kolarov. But having played both Gael & Pablo from the start against Roma, I think our manager will have half-earmarked this one for Aleks and Bacary in advance.

He’s got to go with Mangala and Kompany here – they need to start ‘bonding’ now.

With Fernando probably not quite right yet for a ‘start’, his longer-named colleague gets the nod again next to Yaya in the middle of the park. With him looking over his shoulder at the emergence-from-injury of the ex-Porto midfield; I expect a good game from the Brazilian today. I think Yaya might show last season’s colours too; anything less and recent pundit calls for the Ivorian to be given some time off to ‘reflect & refresh’ might soon be on the cards.

Milner deserves his start; he and Navas on opposite sides should cause the home side some serious issues.

Silva to be a ‘key player’ in an advanced role behind Aguero, who I hope can muster more than one goal today.

A very strong bench that sees ‘Super Frank’ set aside for Fernando, I think. Good defensive cover there and TWO very different strikers on the bench.

Result? As I’ve indicated they are ‘stingy’; can (and have) hit us on the break. And there’s a rumour that the powerful & dangerous Christian Benteke may even make a return-from-injury start!

But I’m going for comfortable away win for us in the end, despite the fact that I think they may nick a goal against us.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Roma

Through to the last 16 of the League Cup and 3 points on Saturday to take us to 3rd in the Premier League. Let’s hope we can make it a ‘perfect week’ with 3 points in our first Champions League home game.


Romans come to town


Not a nice lot, by all accounts, are fans of Roma – not tarring all of them with the same brush of course; ‘they have a history’.

My own recollections are that they were involved in stabbing several Liverpool fans outside their own ground a while back; I had a Manyoo fan telling me only yesterday how their fans too were treated badly by both Roma fans and the Italian Police.

In a candid interview published by the M.E.N. yesterday, Aleks Kolarov also heavily suggested that City players and fans alike were likely to receive a hot reception in our return trip to Italy in December. In the same interview Aleks was refreshingly honest when suggesting that our home fans who, whilst can be decent at times, were way too quiet in general. It’s a time-worn debate that will surface again and again but I agree with him.

Down to the footy then


Bit of a brief one really…

Firstly, I’ve recently read, Roma could be without as many as seven key players ahead of this evening’s clash. However, don’t be fooled by this. At least 2 of them are long-term injuries; players who haven’t yet featured this season and who won’t be back for another month or so.

As for the other 5; I’m not sure how recent their injuries have been and how much, therefore, they have and have not featured in their excellent start to their domestic season. Not being an Italian club expert, a quick look at their results and the second-placed team in Serie A (on goal difference) have played and beaten Fiorentina, Empoli, Cagliari, Parma and Verona. Apart from Fiorentina most of those don’t sound like ‘top’ Italian teams; Parma sit 18th with 1 win and 4 defeats.

In fairness Roma did also wallop CSKA Moscow 5-1 in the last round but, then again, I don’t know the Russian’s strength-levels…and we beat them by a similar 5-2 home score last November.


So, potentially (and another) really tough one tonight. Regardless of their opposition being strong or other wise they have played 6 (in all competitions), won 6, scored 14 and conceded just 2.

They clearly pose a threat and, so, despite being at home I think I’d be tempted to go for a strong midfield that can both defend and attack with pace if needed. My team would be this…

4-2-3-1:

_______________Aguero_______________

 

 

Silva___________Toure___________Navas
 

________Milner_______Fernandinho_____


 

Kolarov___Mangala___Kompany___Sagna

 

 
_________________Hart________________


However, I doubt our ‘Engineer’ will want to go with one striker at home in a competition that he’ll want to grab by the scruff of the neck from the very start; and with Dzeko’s two moral-boosting goals on Saturday he’ll be hoping that our ‘hot & cold’ man will take heart from those strikes against Hull City.

Predicted line-up v Roma:

4-1-3-2:

____________________Dzeko__________
 

__________Aguero___________________

 


__Milner________Toure_________Silva__
 

_____________Fernandinho____________

 

Kolarov___Mangala___Kompany___Sagna
 

 

_________________Hart________________
 


Similar [to mine], slightly narrower ‘3 across the middle’ in between Fernandinho and the strikers. Solid enough, threatening enough. Kolarov & Sagna to provide occasional supporting ‘bursts’ from the back.

One to watch


Number 18 – Mattia Destro. I personally want to watch him as the ‘rumour machine’ fairly recently suggested that we were ‘keeping an eye’ on the young Italian international striker. Very hot property by all accounts; 21 goals in 45 appearances and a corker of a goal at the weekend.

Result? The players and manager seem really up for this competition; they’re under a bit of pressure to get a result and so I can see it being both a nervy & energetic start and I’m sure they’ll take the injustice and disappointing late Bayern defeat and use that as motivation. A narrow home victory.

Personal note


Having not signed up to the League Cup and & F.A. Cup schemes this season I am attending this competition. As a Manchester City fans who has been going for 29+ years – for the most of that time not involved in European competitions – I still don’t get the same ‘buzz’ as I do just before a Premier League game.

I’m looking forward to it of course and I’m sure once I see the floodlights and hear the Roma fans, undoubtedly, bouncing their way through several pre-match songs; the hairs on the back of my neck will wake up…