Friday, 27 December 2013

Pride in battle

Yes there was skill-a-plenty from both sides yesterday; it was a very good game of football indeed. But it was the battling qualities of City that impressed me a lot yesterday in our DESERVED win.


I was a little shocked by some comments from a couple of Blues last night when I popped into my local straight after the walk home from the match. Having watched it in the pub they said we were “lucky” and “…didn’t deserve the win”! Very harsh.

Would it have been a fair result if it had been a draw? Yeah, perhaps. But it would have been fair only because Liverpool were good…very good in fact and certainly not because of any major deficiencies on our part.

Of course it wasn’t off side in the first half; the TV footage clearly shows that. There was a heart-fluttering mad scramble in our box in the second half too; a terrible miss by Sterling towards the end and Joe Hart made a couple of crucial stops…that’s his job. Negredo’s goal too had a touch of fortune to it as Liverpool’s chocolate-wristed goalkeeper allowed the Spaniard’s shot to bounce slowly over the line.

Guile and grace

But we showed tremendous determination, teamwork and some beautiful moments of graceful, quick passing yesterday and so it irks me somewhat to hear some people suggest that we weren’t good for our win yesterday.

Not a happy chappy
I’m also paying very little attention to Brendan Rogers’ protests at a Greater Manchester referee being chosen for this game. Firstly he’s from Bolton, which is hardly Manchester is it? Bolton to the Etihad is about 15 miles, Bolton to Liverpool is only around the 30 mile mark - tomatoes / tomahtoes anyone? Besides which, if he’s got any ‘beef’ about the off-side decision then shouldn’t he be directing his frustrations towards the ASSISTANT referee? Where’s he from?

Cheating b...
Anyway, Suarez should have left the pitch before the rest of the players on a red card for a second yellow. Before he received his yellow card he should have been booked for that horrendous, cheating starfish dive towards the end. I must make an apology at this point to all those within earshot yesterday, when the ‘red mist’ descended and my language was a little bit choice to say the least. Tense-match-fuelled adrenalin, alcohol and a diving cheat aren’t a good mix let me tell you.

Yes Lescott had hold of his shirt a little but why that forces someone to lurch forward and land on the floor in such dramatic style only the cheating Uruguayan could tell you – it was as bad as anything Ashley Young could have produced! Anyway, if the seemingly-bias referee was going to give anything for that then we would have been owed 3 or 4 penalties too; as the Liverpool defence were trying to undress both Joleon and Kompany at almost every City corner!

We edged overall possession and had 20 shots to their 12…so 'nerr' Mr Rodgers!


I was very pleasantly surprised to see Zabaleta start and he showed absolutely no signs of his hamstring injury. That was one mighty quick recovery from the almost-indestructible one!

It was pleasing also to see that Nastasic was fit enough to make the bench yesterday. We could well see him in contention for a starting place against Palace on Saturday, particularly with Demichelis out with a ‘knock’ and perhaps Vinny & Joleon suffering from stiff legs from yesterday’s gruelling game.

And unless he’s injured again I was somewhat surprised - and quite disappointed - not to see John Guidetti not make the bench yesterday. Assuming he IS fit and raring to go; if he can’t make the bench at home and with Aguero out what chance has he got at Manchester City? It must be so frustrating for him to see that, at home, he finds Boyata, Nastasic, Clichy (all defenders) and Garcia all being given hope with a place amongst the substitutes.

Surely John will make then bench against Palace tomorrow…

Trading places

That was a great ‘6 pointer’ yesterday. That win not only see us nicely tucked in a point behind Arsenal and primed to finish 2013 ‘top of the tree’; but Liverpool slip from league leaders to 4th.

A solid Arsenal win at strugglers West Ham puts them back on top and Chelsea squeezing out a 1-0 home win against Swansea sees them just a point behind us in 3rd (I just get a feeling that Jose Mourinhos men haven’t quite clicked yet and if they do – along with, SURELY, a new striker in January – they’ll be up there for the remainder of the season putting in a very strong title challenge).

That was a cracking win for Sunderland (and us!) at Goodison Park yesterday; that pegs the Evertonians back a little (now 5th and 4 points behind us). Tottenham are a fading force and despite their win yesterday; hugely-improved Southampton are 11 points behind us.

Manyoo fought back well (and had some own-goal & crossbar fortune) at Hull, after a comical defensive start to their game. They were eventual 3-2 winners but notably picked up a crucial injury and suspension to Jones and Valencia respectively.

Let’s finish 2013 with a bang!

Now I’m not suggesting for one moment [with that sub-heading] that we’re going to produce another scoreline where, at a quick glance, you’re not sure if you’re looking at a football or rugby result. In fact, not only will Crystal Palace be buoyed by their excellent win at Villa Park yesterday but Tony Pulis will have them well organised and prepared to ‘dig in’ and scrap like hell tomorrow.

With half-a-season in the English Premier League now under his belt I doubt very much that Manuel Pellegrini will be so ‘green’ (as he was at Stoke and Sunderland in my opinion) as to weaken the side too much ahead of a tough trip to Swansea just 4 days later. If he does, the South Londoners will prove extremely difficult to break down in my opinion.

Of course he does have to bare in mind that his players have just come through a muscle-sapping game against Liverpool and, on paper at least, a trip to the Liberty Stadium is more difficult than a home game against a side who have lost 7 of 9 away.

With these quandaries in mind it’s more difficult than usual for me to predict how he’ll run with this one but I’ll give it a go of course. This is how I think he’ll line-up against the slightly resurgent (form guide now 9th from 20) London side…

Formation: 4-4-2









Subs: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Nastasic, Garcia, Toure, Navas, Guidetti.

Working from front to back…

Despite being rarely tried, the Dzeko / Negredo combo hasn’t been a good one so far and so I’m setting myself up to be wrong on that one straight away. There’s also a good argument to go 4-5-1’ish against Palace again - it was quite correct to go with one striker and five midfielders against Liverpool for different reasons but against Palace it could prove shrewd once again; in the sense that their packed defence might not know who best to mark if we’re flying at them from all angles with more attacking midfielders.

However, I’ve just got a feeling that he’ll try to, somehow, combat their brick wall at the back by sticking 2 strikers right up against it.

If he does, then this might well suit Navas; having two ‘big men’ to aim at. But I recon he’ll go for the industry of Milner here; the fresh and (always) raring-to-go James being given a very rare start tomorrow afternoon in place of the pacy Spanish right-winger.

Silva is a must; we’ll need his genius to unlock the stubborn Southerners.

I can’t see us getting another productive game out of Yaya less then 48-hours after the Liverpool encounter and so Fernandinho partners Silva in the middle. Having said that, he could also stick Silva on the right and Milner in the middle – that midfield two would certainly chase-down every ball in a no-doubt packed Palace midfield.

The only change I can see at the back is Clichy for Kolarov. I’m not sure who Pellegrini thinks is the better of the two and so he’s just grateful, I’m sure, that he has both fit to rotate (I’m sure if Micah was fit Zaba would get a rest on the bench tomorrow).

Despite the seemingly recovered Nastasic being available, I think Manuel will go with the relatively solid paring of Lescott and ‘our skip’ once more.

If he does go with this formation and line up, there’s also some decent ‘impact players’ to come on in the form of Yaya, Jesus (and John!). If we’re struggling to break them down from open play then we have, of course, both Toure and/or Kolarov’s free kicks to mostly rely on too.

Result? A patient, eventual home win.

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