Saturday, 27 August 2016

“Everybody’s fit, everybody’s ready”

That was the surprising & pleasing words used by Pep yesterday when asked if there were any fresh injuries; news injury-plagued West Ham won’t have wanted to hear.

All 30 players trained…


How on earth do I now try to predict, accurately, a starting 11 & subs from that lot?! It’s a nice ‘mini challenge’ to have though and a somewhat exciting one.

v West Ham United




Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.

Fluid 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 come 4-2-4:

____________________Aguero____________________






____Nolito___________________________Sterling____
___________________De Bruyne___________________


____________Silva___________Fernandinho_________




Kolarov______Otamendi______Stones_______Zabaleta





____________________Caballero___________________



Notable absences: Claudio Bravo (not selected), Bacary Sagna (not selected / just returned from 'a niggle'), Tosin Adarabioyo (not selected), Eliaquim Mangala (not selected and possibly close to a loan move), Fernando (not selected), Samir Nasri (not selected and possibly close to a loan move), Jesus Navas (not selected), Yaya Toure (not selected), Wilfried Bony (not selected and possibly close to a loan move).

Huh…chuck in a few EDS players and that list of ‘notable absences’ would make a pretty decent Premier League team in itself!

Willy to take his place between the sticks once again, following a night off in midweek and before taking his place as ‘Number 2’ to new signing Claudio; who is just settling in following his move on Wednesday / Thursday.

Manager favourite - and improved player - Aleks on the left of defence (when he’s not darting into midfield or wherever else he might be asked to go), Nicholas & John likely to be the centre-back pairing for this one and for now at least and having had 8-days off, we should see ‘Pablo senior’ on the right.

A familiar-looking 'midfield & wing 5' for this one again I think – Nolito & Raheem to provide most of the width; David, Fernandinho & Kevin most of the central passing & thrust.

All of these supporting an in-form Sergio up front.

Now despite previously stating that those players who were recovering from long-term injuries / regaining fitness wouldn’t be available until after the up & coming international break / for the Manyoo game; Guardiola did state yesterday that ‘all were fine’. So…

Likely to be making his last appearance at the Etihad this season at least and as a spectator on the subs bench (or, more accurately, expensive padded seats) is ‘our Joe’. Gael & Bacary to provide the flanking defence / midfield support cover and we could well see ‘our skip’ Vinny as part of ‘the 7’ on the side (and is likely to get a small run out if the situation at the time suits). Delph likely to survive the ‘everyone is fit / available’ scenario as a stable midfield back-up and he could well be joined by two new signings yet to make their debuts; in the form of central & creative midfielder Ilkay and attacking winger Leroy. Finally, in a talent-packed bench, is Kelechi…and that’s despite crashing to the floor in spectacular style on Wednesday night, which saw two Steaua Bucharest players dive towards the young striker before several medical staff rushed to tend to the Nigerian. From where I was sat, I honestly thought it was a ‘defrib moment’ and thank God it wasn’t of course! Midweek reports suggested that it was a muscle issue; one site still has him down as injured with a ‘hammy’ and yet his manager has said that there are no injuries going into this one…and so he gets on the bench as far as I’m concerned.

Do I agree with Pep’s (predicted) line-up?


Absolutely – who could argue with that?!

Result? There’s a little bit of ‘beware the wounded animal’ about this one; after tomorrow afernoon's visitors were booed off the pitch by their own fans at the London Stadium last Thursday for being both beaten on the night and knocked out of the Europa League at such an early stage.

However, as I previous alluded to The Hammers have the joint-highest injury list in the Premier League at the moment (although robust midfielder Mark Noble might be fit to take part) and some of those absent are big, ‘sure starters’ & 'game changers' too.

That…the fact that they've only had 2-1/2 days to rest & prepare for their trip to Manchester; that our players have 'hit the ground running' / look to have quickly taken on Pep’s ethos & playing style AND, in complete contrast to West Ham, have everyone available to select from; I couldn’t be going into this home game with more confidence of a home win.

There’s not even any sign of that ‘old City feeling’. If you are of a certain era you’ll know the one - “This is the sort of game, then, where we’ll muck it up / shoot ourselves in the foot; a missed opportunity of 3 points and a good goal difference".

Instead, this one could even be a crackin’ day at the office / big win…


UPDATE ON THE WEATHER - 28th August 2016: What a rubbish weather forecast from the BBC that was...

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

A chance for others to start

Sorry, slightly late posting / reduced time – it’s a fairly brief one…


v Steaua Bucharest



Difficult to predict a starting 11 & subs (but not so much the overall outcome) – at 5-0 up after the first leg there’s an opportunity for Pep to start players who have not begun a competitive game this season.

Fluid 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 come 4-2-4:


____________________Iheanacho____________________






___Nolito_______________________________Sterling___

______________________Toure______________________


______________Delph______________________________
______________________________Fernando___________



Clichy_______Adarabioyo______Stones________Zabaleta




________________________Hart______________________



Suggestions are that Joe MIGHT start between the sticks tonight and, so, that’s what I’m going with. At 5-0 up from our 1st leg visit to Romania last week, I can’t help feeling that it’s a token, farewell (for now at least) gesture and a bit of an embarrassing / insulting one for the keeper himself. It’ll be good to see him and the crowd reaction though

An unused sub at the weekend; I think Gael will start tonight. However, on the opposite flank I think it’ll be Pablo to 'start again' as Bacary’s recent ‘little issue’ is more of an official 'injury' now and will be out until after the international break. If I’m correct, it’ll be a young central defence with John continuing to learn under Pep and for his new team partnered, I think, by Tosin.

There’s an opportunity to play a very different midfield and to rest a few regulars and, so, I’m going for the defensive Fernando; slightly ahead of him in a duel role is Fabian and slightly ahead of HIM we might see a new, trim Yaya. Having only played 26 minutes against Stoke at the weekend, I think we’ll see Nolito start tonight. In contrast - and despite a 'full 95' in the same game - ‘work in progress’ Raheem might get another go by Pep tonight.

Surely we’ll see Sergio step aside for Kelechi tonight.

‘Depending’…I would expect to see Pablo Maffeo come on at half time or not long afterwards and perhaps Angelino with 25 or so to go.

Notable absences: Vincent Kompany (in training / recovering from injury), Aleks Kolarov (not selected / rested), Bacary Sagna (injured), Ilkay Gundogan (in training / recovering from injury), Fernandinho (not selected / rested), Kevin De Bruyne (not selected / rested), Samir Nasri (not selected), Leroy Sane (in training / recovering from injury),

Do I agree with Pep’s (predicted) line-up?


Yep…5-0 at 'half time' and at home I’d go with that / give those players a start. Good enough back-up on the bench if needed.

Result? A win on the night and through to the group stages where we should be.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

No trees were harmed in the…



…making of these 3 points.

 

The footballing phrase “Winning when not playing well” would be a little over the top and doesn’t quite apply to us at the moment; I think we’re performing ‘quite well’ and even ‘very good’ in certain spells of games. 

 

But it would be fair to say that despite 3 wins from 3 we’re not yet ‘ripping up trees’ in our victories.



Hard to keep the excitement quelled though.


But I was looking at our start of P3 W3 D0 L0  F11 A2 and enthusiastically text fellow Blues shortly after the final whistle yesterday to say we’ve achieved that with Bravo (probably), Kompany, Gundogan, Sane, Jesus (Toure & Nasri?) still, yet, to come in!

“Wow”, I suggested in the same text, was the appropriate word for the moment.

Game of two halves.


If I was to give our two-half performances a rating, I’d go for a contrasting 7.5/10 in the first and 6/10 in the second – indeed our last two goals were not only slightly against the run of play but were also somewhat of a relief…and rather flattered us in many ways I thought.

But I’ll take that - I’m certainly not moaning in the slightest and we deserved the 3 points.

Some luck too – they should have had a 1st half penalty when Kolarov inexplicably barged into a Stoke player. It was so obvious I can’t believe we got away with it!

And speaking of ‘decision making’, I thought the ref, Mike Dean, who had irked the home fans somewhat in the first half in-giving us many little decisions and seemingly very few to Stoke, then appeared to attempt to “equalise” the situation in the second half; giving some bizarre free kicks to Stoke after the interval.

I thought he was having a good game in the first half in-applying some new rules (don’t ask) ‘to the letter’ but, I felt, then let himself down in his ‘balancing act’ in the latter 45+.

As far as any notable performances from our lads, good or otherwise, is concerned…

-       Willy had a mixed bag of good shot stopping but some scary, dodgy footwork when attempting to ‘play the ball out’. How ironic!

-       Nicholas looked slightly nervous at times; a player who looks like he’s playing under the pressure of a spotlight being firmly held by his boss. Glad we had him in there though; he made some vital tackles and got the game going by winning the first penalty.

-       Next to him John looked SO assured and comfortable. Probably MotM.

-       David looks so at home too under Pep and much improved from last season, where he had ankle issues and looked fatigued for the most part.

-       Raheem typified the game as a whole – he was a real menace to the home side in the first half but in the second looked to have completely lost his composure. Still, in that second half, he managed an assist for Nolito; his second assist in two league games and following a superb showing in Romania in midweek.

-       Nolito himself, after a quiet debut at home to Sunderland, has most certainly “arrived” now in his last two games. He gets himself into those positions, doesn’t he?

-       Sergio not only ‘put to bed’ his midweek, penalty demons but also ‘nipped in’ and stooped between towering Stoke defenders to head home another. That’s 6 goals in 3 games for the Argentine.

Bravo likely to sign in the coming days; Kompany, Gundogan & Sane are all back in ball-work training, Toure & Nasri are still in ‘getting up to speed / trimming down’ drills and we have 4 days off now before our next game, which is to finish the job at home to Steaua Bucharest.

After that, ANOTHER 4 days off before a Sunday home game against West Ham United. It’s all looking good early on…

Why, why, why Delilah d’yer bother?

 


What a pathetic bunch of mindless, sheep-following morons the Stoke City fans were yesterday! (Still) booing Raheem Sterling every time he got the ball and actually still singing, “There’s only one greedy *******”!

A.    What on EARTH has it got to do with them; a player who transferred from Liverpool to Manchester City?

B.    It was over a year ago - get over it / yourselves! And…

C.    …while I’m having a go, their ground was, otherwise, like a monastery and half empty before our 4th goal went in. I’ve seen more Stoke fans outside their ground on TV on transfer deadline day…

Mmmm...indeed.