It wasn’t necessarily seen as a pivotal game
beforehand – certainly a very important one
for 3 points and absolutely a ‘tricky fixture’ – but last season’s trip to
turned out to be a very much stand-out game. Hull
We’d just been dumped out of the Champions League and F.A. Cup and as our Captain trudged off after just 10 minutes following a straight, ‘last man’ red – kicking the wall in frustration as he departed – there was more than just a sense of the old, imploding City about us.
Not long after Vinny left the field for a VERY early shower and our manager had shuffled his pack, I recall sending a “Oh heck” (or perhaps stronger) text to fellow Blues; as the centre-back-pairing was (the admittedly, by then, much improved) Demichelis and the flaky Javi Garcia. Yikes! I thought…
But we MORE than rose to the challenge of playing an away Premier League game with 10 men for 80+ minutes; a tremendous effort that saw us on the front foot for large parts of the game. Silva’s display in general - and goal – was terrific; he was in typical ‘maestro mode’ but with ‘bells on’ that day.
It ended 0-2 to us and, just before the end, there was even more controversy, as Hart came forehead to forehead with George Boyd who clearly and disgracefully spat at our keeper, which we all saw time and time again in replays of the incident.
2014/2015 sees a
side who are similar
to last season in that they provide solid and tough opposition on their own
patch. But they have also added class to their side. Without doing TOO much Hull
City Hull City
research (and so I may forget to mention a key figure or two) they’ve added
class to their defence in the shape of ex-Tottenham
And in addition to ‘hot & cold’ Nikica Jelavic (who is fairly hot at the moment with 3 goals in 5 in the Prem), they have brought in Abel Hernandez; a Uruguayan striker who was ‘1 in 3’ for his last club, Palermo, and who is ‘1 in 3’ for his national side. Abel has been waiting for visa clearance recent and so is only just getting his match fitness up to scratch. Still, both he &
will provide (another) stern test for us today I’m sure. Hull
But we’re almost at full strength going into this one…and I say that knowing that we have players out injured who would almost certainly make the starting 11 of 90% (or there abouts) of Premier League teams.
Fernando & Jovetic, we are told, should be back in contention in about a week (Aston Villa then?) but Nasri, it would appear, is out for about a month following some surgery on a groin issue (perhaps West Ham away or Newcastle United in the League Cup). That might explain his fairly quiet start to the season…
But we’ve had some key players rested this week in the form of Hart, Zabaleta,
Clichy, Kompany, Silva and Aguero and so we should be firing today; particularly
after a confidence-boosting 7-0 rout of Sheffield Wednesday – there’s nothing like banging
in goals to give you a boost!
The press picked up, in midweek, on the fact that Pellegrini suggested that he might give Willy a couple of games ‘on the bounce’. So perhaps I’m wrong from the very beginning in selecting Joe in the starting 11 here. But I’ve gone for Manuel picking the
man…and I would agree (with
no disrespect to the Argentinean intended). England
I can’t imagine Pellegrini picking a different back 4 than that and, for me, that’s the strongest we could possibly field. With the two rested fullbacks and the Mangala / Kompany combo it’s almost mouth watering in fact!
This could well be another game for the ever (and increasingly) impressive James (HAHM-ez) Milner…but I’ve gone for our Engineer to pick Fernandinho to Partner Yaya in the middle today.
Yaya has been putting in some shifts recently (he's needed to though in order to recapture last season's form) and with Roma just 3 days after this one, there's a good argument to drop / rest him today. But with limited options (I could pose a few but I won’t) I think Pellegrini will look to the Ivorian to help put City out of site by 60-odd minutes and then withdraw him as early as possible.
With Nasri out and with Navas in such fine form (and like Milner he could player all season with his ‘engine’) we might see David out on the left today. But it’ll be a fluid one for sure and in suggesting more of a 4-4-1-1 rather than a 4-4-2, I’m sure we’ll see both Silva and Aguero floating around and causing all sorts of havoc behind the often-less-mobile Dzeko. I’ve gone for him playing Edin again following his fine headed, moral-boosting goal on Wednesday…against Wednesday.
The first defensive 4 on the bench almost pick themselves…and to be honest so do the next 3. Notably, however, is the lack of an out & out striker and so if this is of a concern to our manager (I doubt it) then perhaps he’ll give another bench spot to Pozo (again I doubt it).
Result? Very confident of an away win today.