Sorry for the delay in getting a pre-match Wembley blog-posting out – I had no chance on Friday and then-following ‘an evening’ with friends that very night, which went on until around 2:00am; I had a full-on hangover yesterday. Ufffff…
Brief one / straight to it then.
In front of (hopefully) him, Gael & Jesus at left & right-back; Vinny & Nicholas in between those.
A mostly attacking midfield 5; open pitch on our national stadium that Yaya seems to enjoy playing on. Along with him is a deadly quartet of Leroy, David, Kevin & Raheem.
All supporting / supplying Sergio.
The slightly improving of late ‘other fella’ as back-up to Willy; Aleks & Pablo the defensive replacement options. Fabian, Fernandinho & Aleix on the side for when we need to add midfield energy and possibly security if we’re ahead and feel the need to ‘sure up’ but on the opposite side of that coin; we might see Gabriel join Kelechi as attacking replacement change-possibilities!
Notable absences: Bacary Sagna (injured), John Stones (injured), Fernando (not selected), Ilkay Gundogan (injured for rest of season) & Nolito (not selected).
Do I agree with Pep’s (predicted) line-up?
With a combined age of 90 between those 3 central midfielders (treating Yaya as 34 who is just a few weeks away from his birthday don't forget!) it could be 'energy sapping' for the Ivorian & Spaniard in particular; even though David lets the ball do the work and taking into consideration that Pep has improved fitness & energy levels a lot since his arrival last summer. Often-red-cheeked Kevin should be okay but I’d hope to see Leroy, Raheem and even Jesus help out there a little when required.
I’m fine with that line-up though and hope to see Gabriel get a go if / when needed or appropriate if he’s deemed okay to get 'a little run out'.
Result? Who can possibly predict a one-off game at Wembley when-facing similar opposition in terms of a team packed with similar quality?
This is going to be more about ‘gut feeling’ than looking at league form too closely and although the Arsenal camp did appear to have picked themselves up from the floor of low-moral following Wenger speculation and a series of result that has seen them slip to 7; there was something quite false & forced about their post-match celebrations against doomed Middlesbrough last time out.
As for us? 2 back-to-back wins; a very professional job done at Southampton, ‘our skip’ is back, possibly our Brazilian Winter signing too and there was something in Pep’s croaky voice in his pre-match press conference that said to me he’d been drilling his players EXTRA hard for this game!
Gut feeling? A City win…and hopefully one in ‘the 90’ too.
Expected weather conditions during the game: Decent day for footy. 13C with light cloud / chance of some sunshine outside the stadium will feel closer to 16 or 17C inside I’m sure.