Monday, 17 February 2014

So…it’s the ‘big one’!

Regular readers should know that I currently hold this competition as 4th preference out of 4 behind 1st-place Premier League, 2nd League Cup (‘cause I’ve never seen us win it) and 3rd place F.A. Cup; because it’s a prestigious cup and a possible domestic treble should excite ANY Premier League football fan!


…I hope that no-one sees my 4th-positioning of the Champions League as either disrespectful [to the highly-regarded competition], lacking ambition or perhaps even just crazy talk! Rather I believe that we are a growing Football Club & team and haven’t quite reached the level of Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid to mention just 3 giants of European football. We’re getting there…and we WILL get there quite soon I’m sure.

And of course if we DO get past Barcelona over the 2 legs I will be as ecstatic and as proud as I possibly can be. Progress further or, dare I suggest, even WIN the competition and I’ll be over the blue moon and far, far away!

But I have to keep a sense of realism and if ploughing ALL of our efforts into this competition then scuppers, in any way, our chances of domestic silverware – especially having done SO well so far this season – I will be as sick as David Moyes after the final whistle of most Cold Trafford games this season.

So how DO we stand a chance of beating them?

A question no doubt MANY managers & supporters have asked many times before. Well we certainly won’t do it by playing a straight 4-4-2 and sticking a largely immobile striker up front that’s for sure.

On the night of the home game against Bayern, ANYONE with a footballing brain (and I’m assuming our engineering manager simply forgot to charge his brain up that day) who looked at the pre-match team selection will have had the same, foreboding feeling. We were simply stationary & overrun and by the time we’d picked ourselves up for a late rally like a dying, cornered tiger; it was all too late.

Please don’t make the same mistake Manuel…

This is what I’d play:

4-5-1 / 4-6-0:











If we get a Dr Jekyll and not Mr Hyde performance from our defensive unit then that’s a solid one. Pellegrini might well go for the more Champions League-experienced Demichelis; my first thoughts were to go for the Argentinean [instead of the Brummie] for that very reason. But after the fine display against Chelseaand providing they’ve all recovered well enough of course – I'd be tempted to ‘stick’. There's an argument to go with Kolarov. Alex does, in fairness, give us that fast, counter-attacking option, which can be a potent weapon when playing the high-ball-possessive Spanish side.

The more advanced players in this set-up are experienced, fast, creative, mobile and have counter attacking abilities. I’ll be honest though, before the Chelsea game I’d stuck Milner in place of Garcia. Milner, I believe, would provide the added potency of being able to run backwards & forward all night long; tackling and generally harassing & ‘mopping up’ where necessary. But I just hope that lightening can striker twice - if Javi can produce another fine, ‘protecting’ role once again then great!

Experienced, mobile and with the support of the fluid, midfield behind him; Stevan has goals in him of course. A good choice if we are to play with one striker in this game.

Need a change? We can stick the bullish Negredo up front and stick Milner on to, perhaps, hassle them into a rare mistake later on.

Will Pellegrini go with this? Well, probably not…and so here’s my predicted line-up:

4-4-1-1 / 4-5-1:










Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Lescott, Fernandinho, Garcia, Milner, Dzeko

Still a strong-looking team selection and it still has that fluid-mobility about it in midfield. It perhaps lacks the protection the likes of Garcia or Milner would add but if he plays Jovetic more as an advanced midfielder rather than a secondary striker; that, at least, will keep their supporting midfield busy.

Pellegrini just likes his 2 strikers…and I think he’ll ‘go for it’ early on; packing the bench with more-defensive players should we have our noses in front in the second half.

It’s a tough one to call personnel & formation wise but one thing is for sure; our players will need plenty of chicken, pasta and energy drinks before this game!

Should be a great night – I’m really looking forward to it - and it’ll be interesting to see how the planned stadium card-mosaic will go!

Result? A narrow home win!

Wherever you may be…ENJOY!

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