Sunday, 19 April 2015

West Ham United game predictions…

Okay, following yesterday’s “notice” I got a bit of time and Pellegrini’s pre-match press conference has come out in print, at least, if not in full on MCFCTV.

And so…

…my predicted starting 11, subs and outcome.











Hart to continue in net.

Losing both Gael Clichy & Vincent Kompany to injury means that Aleksandar Kolarov & Eliaquim Mangala fill the left-hand-side of our defence. Martin Demichelis & Pablo Zabaleta to provide security on the other side.

Pellegrini seems to prefer Fernandinho over Fernando and, I suppose, we are at home. The Brazilian, therefore, to provide that deeper, protective role. Ahead of him 4 attacking midfielders that should, on their day, absolutely rip anyone apart! Should…

With very limited strikers available to us – again through injury – I’m going for our manager choose just one…even at home. My only logic though is so that he can “change things” if / when needed.

What a story of injuries the bench tells…

The usual keeper cover of course and Sagna is no stranger to the bench either. Boyata, however, rarely gets a look-in these days and it paints an even more startling picture that he might sit there having only started training again on Thursday after an injury lay-off himself.

Fernando & Lampard provide the only central midfield cover; Pozo & Dzeko the only true ‘front line’.

Notable absences: Clichy, Kompany, Milner, Jovetic & Bony (all injured).

Result? Which Manchester City team will turn up, the one that beat Stoke away 4-1 and Newcastle 5-0 at home ten days later or the one we’ve mostly had to ‘endure’ since the turn of the year?

It doesn’t now help, of course, that we have so many key injuries in all departments; but we’re in danger here of getting our ‘Great unpredictables’ title back. Thank God I wasn’t able to do a Blog in the 80s & 90s!

On the erratic form we’re in - and being afflicted with key personnel absences - it IS hard to predict this one. We are at home and the players should be buoyed by the fact that with Arsenal being engaged in F.A. Cup duty this weekend and with Manyoo losing to Chelsea (I can’t believe I was having to cheer that result yesterday) we can close the points gap on Manyoo to just 1 (on the same games) and go within 2 of charging Arsenal (who will have a game in hand on us).

Psychologically we can also pull a 7-point gap away from Liverpool for a while too. It’s all there for the taking really and our players should get a sense of that.

However, Allardyce will be rubbing his hands at seeing the left-hand-side of our defence being marshalled by Messrs Kolarov & Mangala and will, no doubt, place great emphasis on attacking down their right. I wonder if our manager will see this and, instead, deploy a 4-2-3-1; with both Fernando & Fernandinho “protecting”; dropping Navas or Nasri to the bench?

With Southampton losing vital ground also yesterday it will be gut-wrenching if we can’t take advantage of this weekend’s ‘goings on’ but WITH the afore mentioned weakened defence and our current form; I just can’t look past a very frustrating draw I’m afraid.

I’d LOVE to be wrong…

Saturday, 18 April 2015


Due to no Club-released, pre-West Ham United, Pellegrini press conference for whatever reason - and then-later other personal issues - sadly there will be no pre-West Ham United Blog-posting on this occasion.

It would appear, by all accounts however, that we have several injuries in addition to Vincent Kompany heading into our home game against Sam Allardyce's men.

Fingers crossed, still, for a good game and result!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

On-pitch commitment & determination ratings

Much has been, quite rightly, talked about in recent weeks - and much more intensely so in recent days – about the attitude of our players.

So much am I starting to get peeved to say the least with mental approach from a lot of our players that I e-mailed the 1894 group recently to suggest a banner for the 4 remaining home games; thanking those players who give a damn whilst at the same time expressing that we are more than aware of players who don't. The suggested banner was to end with the words, “You know who you are…”

They thanked me; agreeing to discuss but said that it would be unlikely.


Out of 10…

So instead (although I’d already thought about doing this before contacting 1894) I thought I do a rating of where I thought ‘the players mentality’ lay.
I’m sure the results will come as little surprise to avid Manchester City fans but it should highlight (in red) at least just how many players should be got-rid-of for their lack of desire & effort on the pitch in the blue of Manchester. Of course others need to be shipped out for their lack of ability too…
On-pitch commitment / determination
Joe Hart: Never in question. If I thought it to be a good idea to have goalkeeper as a captain then England’s number 1 has some of the credentials, at least, to wear the armband. 9/10.
Willy Caballero: Not enough seen of him / can’t comment.
Dedryck Boyata: Although not played much at all this season I have seen enough of him in season’s gone by. Hasn’t got the footballing ability to remain at the club in my opinion but, to my knowledge, as never ‘gone banging’ on the manager’s door and never looks anything less than 100% in his efforts whenever his limited cameos crop up. 8/10.
Gael Clichy: I shouldn’t tar all French with the same brush…but what is it with the French? At times Gael shows such determination and passion it looks like he’s been at the club from being a teenager…and I will never forget the ‘slow-mo’ footage of the shear passion on the fella’s face when he hugged ‘our Joe’ after Sergio scored ‘that’ goal against QPR. Then there are spells where, like Samir Nasri, he looks like he’s not really that bothered; although I get the feeling that in Gael’s case it’s more an inconsistency in confidence / form that anything more sinister / deeper. For that, he gets a decent 7.5/10.
Martin Demichelis: Although he has lost his ‘hippy hair’, he sometimes has something of an hippy ‘air’ about him (see what I did there?)  He’s been there and done it, of course, and with age comes wisdom and a certain calmness. That can lead some to believe that players in this category have taken their foot off the accelerator in terms of desire. Not with Martin I don’t think. In fact I think he sometimes moans and remonstrates a little too much when decision don’t go his way. He’s a committed player alright. 8/10.
Aleksandar Kolarov: Don’t let this fella’s steely look fool you. You might think he’d be able to win a staring competition with a stone statue but his demeanour is just him being him. Not ONLY lacks ability at the level we’re at / try to reach but all too often, mostly as a defender, looks like he can’t be bothered to defend! 3.5/10.
Vincent Kompany: If only you could bottle and distribute it! Should bleed sky blue (and other clichés). 10/10.
Eliaquim Mangala: Almost falls into the category of Willy Caballero / not seen enough of. But we have seen just about enough of the French central defender to make a psychology judgement…and with Vinny now potentially out for the rest of the season we should be able to judge him [all-round] even more-so over the next 5 weeks / 6 games. Suffering the kind of ‘shock to the system’ the Premier League seems to be for the big guy; some would crumble and try to hide (not that there’s a hiding place on the pitch in his chosen profession). Credit, then, that he doesn’t try to [hide]. Seems very focused on improving himself. 7/10.
Bacary Sagna: Despite Pablo Zabaleta having a quiet season by his very high standards, this is another we’ve not seen too much of. However – and despite my previous French comment – the ex-Arsenal man has never shown anything less than him-being a true professional. Perhaps has some reason to pull out the ‘le-sulk’ and, so, credit to him that he hasn’t. For that he gets 8/10.
Pablo Zabaleta: Being almost 100% present season after season after season, a very long 2014 World Cup campaign and, more recently, a new born to deal with; it has definitely taken it’s toll on our right-sided, defensive stalwart. Not only has he lost a percentage of his effectiveness this season be he looks to have lost that mental edge too…but only a bit. This fella is already entrenched in my all time Manchester City 11 and so it’s with a slightly heavy heart that I can’t give him the same mark as ‘our skip’. However, I think you’ll find that most people on the plant would be happy with an enormous 9.5/10 rating.
Fernandinho: Huhhhhh… Bit of an enigma is this chap. Sometimes looks like he could cry with pride for the club…but all-too-little. Again, not wishing to ‘tar everyone’, he often floats through games in a almost-typical Brazilian daze; waking up in spells to, in my opinion, flatter to deceive ability-wise. Unlike (most) Argentinean players I do, as I say, personally find a lot of Brazilian players like this. 5/10.
Fernando: Looks to have more ‘hustle ‘n’ bustle’ about him…but only just. Similar to his longer-named countryman you feel that his ability would come out more if he showed more urgency more often. 5.5/10.
Frank Lampard: I’m betting if this had been done by a Chelsea fan last season or in seasons gone by ‘super Frank’ would be 10s all day long. And I’m betting no City player would fault his sense of determination on the training pitch and in the dressing room either and would also, therefore, give the ex-England man a 10. I can’t really fault the fella’s desire in a sky blue shirt either and perhaps the reason he doesn’t get a 10 from me is mostly coloured by / down to his aging body not allowing him to reach those dizzy height on the pitch for us; when stretching for a ball didn’t quite work out. Still…he gets a more than creditable 8.5/10.
James Milner: For a description read Vincent Kompany (above). 10/10.
Samir Nasri: I’ve already done the ‘French thing’ so you know what I have to say on this. What is it with Samir’s head? We were told that he needed a father figure and I get that. Some players respond to the ‘the arm around’ whilst others almost want to be given ‘the rocket’ periodically in order for them to perform. ‘Mr Lambikins’ missed his Arsene Wenger when he came to work for the rather colder Roberto Mancini and must have been jumping (like a spring lamb?) when he heard about Manuel Pellegrini’s traits [of being a very personable kind of boss]. And, sure enough, he had a very good season last…and a ‘not bad’ early season this time round too. Sometimes, in fact, he even shows the kind of gritted-toothed determination on the pitch that really gets the crowd going too. So what the HELL then goes wrong with him?! Now calling him, ‘Mr Self-destruct’; Samir seems to flick a switch and instantly looks like a moody child who has been refused a cône à glace! 5/10.
Jesus Navas: There’s a phrase in football that goes something like “…running for the shirt”. If only he could match his running desire with ‘end product’ ability because this Spanish flyer get a solid 8.5/10 for desire & determination at least.
David Silva: It’s always the quiet ones. More accurately, it’s always the quiet ones who get the best plaudits from ex-professionals for having the right kind of attitude. Not only does he OOZE class in footballing ability but his attitude and desire are never, ever questioned. Combining both - is this the “perfect player” to have in any side? 9.5/10.
Yaya Toure: Getting a bit scientific, I think we’ve just found our ‘polar opposite’ to David Silva. What an immense talent this monster of an Ivorian is! And, sometimes, he looks like he wants to tear his shirt off in pride before going on a marauding run; ripping through ‘the oppo’ like they’re not even there! However…he speaks French (look…it’s just an observation – nothing serious is meant by it). He either borrows Samir Nasri’s switch or has one of his own and when HE uses it, it seems to turn him from Dr David Banner’s alter ego into Mary Poppinsbut without the magic. This season (and the back end of last) the switch has been firmly locked in the latter position. 5/10.
Sergio Aguero: So similar in so many ways to my write-up about David Silva (huh…Yaya is most certainly a thorn between to gold-coloured roses here). When he cried on the Etihad grass against Everton after just 6 minutes or so of being badly (knee) injured, you knew that it wasn’t because of the pain. And I need to explain why this chap get 0.5 more than our Spanish midfield magician. It’s simply because he often ‘busts a gut’ largely without having any help ‘in his particular department’ on the pitch - it must be SO frustrating for the Argentinean battleship! 10/10.
Wilfried Bony: Seen little of him in a blue shirt of course…but just about enough to comment. Seems to have an excellent work rate and I think we’ll have a hell of a dangerous player / different option when things settle down for both him and his new team. Perhaps, at the moment, he’s been trying a little TOO hard to impress / score. 7.5/10.
Edin Dzeko: What’s the text speak? O…M…G! Never…EVER have I seen a player – certainly not for Manchester City (and I include Elano & Jo) – show such a lack of desire and utter contempt for ‘the shirt’ as I’ve seen from this excuse for a footballer! Not only does he have very, VERY limited ability on the ball but I am often left utterly appalled by his body language; more often than not even before the kick-off whistle has been blown. The frustrating thing? I have seen him have the odd game whereby he does look like he cares, which often results in him getting a brace of goals or better. So he DOES have it in him…and for that reason gets 1.5/10.
Stevan Jovetic: Nothing completely offensive from this guy in terms of a lack of desire – in fact he runs quite a lot whenever he gets his chance. I just feel, though, that an extra level of impetus would have done him – and us – a world of good. 6/10.
Jose Angel Pozo: Cannot fault him whatsoever when he came to the rescue during our ‘injured strikers crisis’ – there was a lot of pressure on his young shoulders too. 8/10.


So there you have it – of course the colours speak for themselves and although there are a few ‘grey areas’; it’s obvious that on commitment / desire / determination (call it what you will) alone there are at least 4 players who should be heading for the exit in the summer.
Chuck in a few more for their lack of ability and all-too-clearly has it gone from a summer ‘refresh’ to a summer ‘re-build’.
Huhhhhh…we’re well ‘n’ truly back on that City rollercoaster again, although this one, at least, has padded seats…

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Can it be 3 in a row? 3 points to City and 5 back-to-back derby wins?

I got 4 numbers in the National Lottery a week last Wednesday and on Thursday-just-gone I pulled the winner (for the 2nd year running) out of the hat at work for yesterday’s Grand National!

They say “things often happen in threes”…

I think key in this predicted line-up is, and not for the first time, will Manuel Pellegrini stick with his much-preferred 4-4-2…or will sense prevail for once.

I have no problem in suggesting that our manager sometimes show naivety because some of his decision making to stick rigidly to 4-4-2 has cost us so many times this season…and has most certainly contributing to such an underperforming season over all.

When he HAS finally changed it during games, usually on 70+ minutes when it’s way too late, it looks much better; the extra possession - something that he actually stated as being very important in part 2 of his pre-Manyoo ‘presser’ - proves to be key in improving our play / performance; certainly against stubborn ‘oppo’ who defend in numbers.

But I would hope also that in light of the fact that we only have one proper striker available in many ways with both Bony & Jovetic unavailable through injury…and the other 3 of 4 being a certain Edin DzekoAND with us being away from home at in-form Manyoo; surely our Engineer - with his own words of the importance of possession still in his throat – will go for a more-compact, counter attacking midfield.

This isn’t what I would pick (I did that the other day) but I’m going for our manager to show some nous this afternoon. He’s not going to drop Yaya Toure; likewise his beloved Jesus Navas and nor, sadly, can I see him picking James Milner and, so…











Subs: Caballero, Kolarov, Mangala, Fernandinho, Milner, Lampard, Dzeko

Joe between the sticks.

Like every other Blue, I’m sure, I’m hoping that Vinny will be fit. Our manager explained that he had a niggle which, although he could play through it against Palace last Monday night, had been assess throughout the week. If not, Mangala gets promoted to the first 11 and with no Boyata (through injury) also, Sagna to join the bench and be central defensive cover if required. As it is [in my predicted 11] that’s about as strong as it gets for us at the back.

I think our manager will go for the more-defensive Fernando over Fernandinho because, I hope, he’ll be packing an attacking quartet of midfielders between him and Aguero, with Silva the most advanced behind our lone Argentinean.

Big question marks over a few in there though:
  • Is Samir’s head right or will he feel the fever of a derby and in his seemingly-fragile state ‘go off on one’ and get himself sent off?
  • Will Yaya be up for the fight for once?
  • Will we see a rare end product to ‘run Forrest run’ on the right?
Notable absentees: Sagna…and both Stevan Jovetic & Wilfried Bony who are, as I say, both injured.

Result? It might sound like derby-day fence-sitting but I am going for a draw.

Away from home to a side who likes to attack might, in some ways, suit us. God knows we don’t seem to have the ability this season to break down stubborn sides who ‘sit’, which is probably why Brendan Rodgers chose the most defensive formation I have EVER seen a Liverpool team deploy at home…and it worked against us a few weeks back.

They are ‘in form’ and we are most certainly not. However, I’m sure – and I do get a sense of this from some of the comments I’ve heard from some of our players – that the very disappointing Palace result will act like a cold shower before this ‘6 pointer’.

Thatand if our manager ‘shows a bit of common’ this afternoon - might even see us take our 5th derby victory in a row. I hope so of course…but equally I will be satisfied with a good performance and a point.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Team to beat Manyoo…

Although I fully intend to do my usual pre-match Blog-posting, giving a ‘Pellegrini-predicted line-up’ (Saturday or Sunday morning); I just thought I’d very briefly 'bang out' my own thoughts / best possible team to face our neighbours from M16.

V Manyoo

4-1-4-1 (4-1-1-3-1):










Keeper ‘picks himself’.

I said this pre-Palace – that’s probably our strongest possible defence line-up.

Fernando – and not Fernandinho – to ‘dig in’, protect and break up opposition play as much as possible. And slightly ahead of him, the energy and much-needed determination & character of James Milner in a kind of duel role; assisting Fernando a little but also adding much needed attacking impetus too.

Ahead of those 2 is a, sort of, attacking midfield 3 that includes an advanced Sergio Aguero behind his “striking partner” Wilfried Bony.

Now I did say post-Palace that when Nasri came on for Navas, although the French midfielder played well for the short time he was on the pitch, he did look like he wanted to kill someone as he was preparing to cross the white line. We all saw his ‘heads gone’ moment against Barcelona a few weeks back and now, it turns out, he has-indeed had a ‘spat’ within the club; not being happy with Pellegrini for dropping him for the Leicester City game.

I’ve gone for him though; I hope his head is right for the game and that he doesn’t do something silly in the heat of a Trafford / Manchester derby and have picked him on his cameo appearance merit in London last Monday.

Also in my little “what if” section – IF Bony hasn’t recovered from his training ankle knock then shift Aguero into his slot and stick Yaya in there; hoping like hell that he’s up for the fight for a rare occasion this season.

It may look a bit narrow to some but away at Manyoo that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Also, with the support of James Milner; Samir, Sergio and David can & will float around and move out wide when require.

It’s a very fluid attack that allows for 2 dangerous strikers to be on the pitch without compromising numbers in midfield – a very attacking formation in my opinion and one, which, is also solid defensively.

Keeper cover on the bench in the form of Willy Caballero, of course; Kolarov to provide a differing outlet on the left if needed and pacy, central defensive cover with Mangala too.

Potential game & pace changers in the form of ‘big-game-experienced’ Frank Lampard, Yaya to provide a fresher (from the bench) goal threat and Navas, at least, to provide some dangerous pace as ‘the oppo’ tires. Jovetic as a striking option…and no Dzeko!

There you have it – go get ‘em Blues!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Utterly joyless.

The pained expressions on the faces of the Manchester City players were clear for all to see…and that was BEFORE kick off!


It’s one thing to have a steely focus expression on your face but the players looked 'stressed as hell' before KO last night – huh…perhaps for 10 of ‘em that demeanour was forced when they saw the team sheet and saw that they were effectively playing with 10-men again; as Dzeko’s name appeared alongside Aguero’s…

And when Samir Nasri came on to replace the invisible man – effectively brining our numbers back up to 11 on 66 minutes – even he looked like he wanted to come on the pitch and kill somebody (although I thought he played well for his 28 minute stint). Correction: Nasri came on for Navas and played just 17 minutes. Ooops...

Add into the mix Manuel Pellegrini’s ‘What the hell to I do now / next’, utterly defeated, dejected & grave expression; and we go into a derby game at Cold Trafford in the worst possible shape in many ways.

In a game where we, strangely, did o…kay  for the most part - and certainly had way more possession and more shots / chances than Palace - Demichelis had, in the early stages at least, a woeful time of it last night. £34M-man Fernandinho had an indifferent game once again where he was, at times, okay and at other times quite awful; Navas for all his running (again) was mostly ineffective (again!) and Toure had wrongly set his alarm clock for 9:25pm; just several minutes before his-own-personal, extra impetus resulted in a very fine goal indeed.

Most of them look like they need a few sessions on a psychiatrist couch…followed by an ice-bucket challenge!

Fading fast

Unbelievably the Premier League form guide shows us to be as high as 9th from 20…but chuck in an F.A. Cup defeat and a couple more in the Champions League as well and from 14 games since 10th January 2015, W:4 D:3 L:7 tells its own story of a side in rapid decline.

The pundits started early last night on Sky Sports but, in fairness, they appeared to be trying not to twist the knife too much. It still hurt though.

Jamie Carragher quite simply said we were a team that had seen its best days; an aging team that deserves credit for an F.A. Cup final win; likewise in the League Cup and 2 Premier League titles in 3 seasons (playing some amazing football at times and banging in so many wonderful goals I’ve lost count, I will add).

Gary Neville, quite accurately, preceded Jamie’s comments by saying that the mentality of the players was wrong; getting to the top of the mountain by winning the league and then breathing a huge sigh of “We’ve done it!” relief, before relaxing the following season.

We’ve flippin’-well done that twice under two managers now!

There does need to be a fairly large clear-out / re-build in the summer but I would suggest to the club that if we are to inject some youth and some much-needed pace into the side (and not the sort of Navas, no-end-product kind of pace) then we also need to desperately address the lack of leadership in the middle of the park and ‘depth of character’ elsewhere, which Gary alludes to.

Our skip’ – having had ‘the finger’ way-too-harshly pointed at him this season in my opinion – needs help in that department.

Next up…

Although under the cosh for large parts of the game last night; Palace most-definitely ‘smelt blood’ before last night’s encounter and their instincts were correct. I’m guessing now that Manyoo will get a similar feeling before next weekend’s game.

Get the couches loaded-up and the ice-maker working at 100% City…

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Go at ‘em hard ‘n’ fast in order to clip the Eagles’ wings!

Whether or not it was because, on Sunday 27th April 2014, we’d just witnessed ‘that’ slip from ‘Stevie G’, which let a certain Demba Ba in to send Chelsea 1-0 up in a game that Liverpool eventually lost at home 2-0; we then headed into a ‘must win’ game at Selhurst Park with nerves being replaced by a sense of optimism.


That was on the back of a very inconsistent time for us throughout March & April 2014 – the previous six games showing on the board as, W: 3 D: 2 L: 1 (to Liverpool). Chelsea, although within a chance of winning the league themselves at the time, did us a HUGE favour that day…and it was then up to us to do ‘our part’.

We started brightly and sure enough…BANG! Edin Dzeko does what he does “best” and scored a vital goal in at a vital time in a vital game. 54% overall possession and 16 shots to their 3 away from home; we were playing with a swagger and a confidence.

Yaya added at second at another vital time just before the interval on 43 minutes and although a 3rd goal in the second half would have calmed any remaining nerves that day, we played with our chests out and weren’t for letting this opportunity slip away.

More nerves were to come of course – I recall swirling butterflies aplenty in our 2-3 victory (again courtesy of ‘that man for the moment’ Dzeko) at bogey ground / side Everton before a real WOW result two days later; as the very same Crystal Palace blasted-in 3 goals in just 9, game-changing minutes to mount an impressive 3-3 comeback to all-but-kill Liverpool’s title chances.

Fast forward

Now although our chances of winning the title this season appear to be a little more difficult – trailing Chelsea as we do by 6 points and having played a game more before a ball is even kicked this Easter weekend - it’s hard not to look at Monday night’s game and see a scenario not too dissimilar.

It’s Liverpool who could do us a favour this weekend by taking a point or more off 3rd-place Arsenal at the Emirates today and as for Villa at Scaffold Trafford and later-in-the-day Stoke at Stamford Bridge; well…stranger things have happened in football.

The involvement of Crystal Palace in last season’s title run-in against Liverpool should serve as a warning to us this time that they are (or certainly were under their previous manager Tony Pulis) capable of causing an upset.

The fact that we ARE, more realistically, in a 3-way battle for 2nd place now – and could even be 4th before our trip to London on Monday night - should also act as added motivation to take all 3, desperately-needed points before a certain Manchester / Trafford derby the following weekend.

And as the home crowd can most definitely act as a 12th man these days, it’s even more important that we attempt to ‘blow them out of the water’ early on as we did almost 12 months ago.

According to our manager, apart from a few ‘niggles’ to watch over the next 48 hours we have a fully fit squad and although he won’t directly admit it; the extra couple of days rest should give us a slight advantage following the international break; allowing more ‘prep’ & assessment time (although the last time we had a fully fit squad and seemingly had a more-restful advantage it was Mr Pellegrini's tactics that failed us; as we lost a vital game to Liverpool on 1st March 2015).

v Crystal Palace (Monday 06.04.2015 – 8:00pm KO BST)

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome…

4-4-2 / 4-1-3-2:










Hart in net.

Probably our strongest back-4 there.

Having been one of ‘the 7’ to remain at home during the international break - and with a personal promise a week or so ago to use the time to get his fitness levels right up following a ‘injury blip’ season - I’ve gone for our manager to choose Fernando as the deeper, ‘protecting’ midfielder. 3 ahead of him in Nasri (assuming his head is right), Toure (assuming HIS head & motivation is right) and, of course, Silva.

And it’s 2 ‘up top’…and I think that’ll be the rested Bony alongside Aguero rather than midweek hat-trick hero (against Andorra) and then angry (against Austria) Dzeko.

Kolarov for a change of left-sided shape / more attacking option and Mangala as central cover; Lampard & Milner as ‘the dependables’ in the middle of the park, Navas for a (literal) change of pace…and Dzeko if “needed”.

Notable absentees in this predicted line-up: Sagna, Fernandinho & Jovetic.

Result? As I’ve already more than hinted; if we go into this game with the wrong attitude and / or, for whatever other reason, go into this noisy, night-time-floodlit arena and are slow to start then I think they’ll get ‘at us’…and get in front. I think we’ll then struggle and later flap towards the end – as I’ve seen us do all-too-often this season – and will have to scrap like crazy just to get a very disappointing point.

Go into this from the start with a refreshed look and a determination to ‘right some season wrongs’ and I think we’ll win this one by 2 goals or more.

I’m banking on the latter – it’s a City win…and that’s the way we like it, we like it, we like it...

And let’s hope also that ‘potty mouth’, ageist Alan Pardew can control himself in the opposite technical area to our manager on Monday night…