Saturday, 24 January 2015

It’s been a weird week…

Defeat to Arsenal last weekend leaving me (and other Blues I’m sure) feeling a little flat; the team away in Abu Dhabi for some apparent winter, warm-weather training / friendly match (who were met with cloud, hail and high winds as they disembarked) and an F.A. Cup game that I’m not even going to.

Yep…those are my excuses for posting a late, late and fairly brief Blog entry.

v Middlesbrough

Straight to the day’s predicted line-up, subs and outcome…











With him being given the game in Abu Dhabi; with him keeping a clean sheet and pulling off at least one very fine save…and with Joe not having his best spell of the season in recent weeks; I think an F.A. Cup home game will see Willy being trusted between the sticks for this one. Don’t suggest this within earshot of Joe - and I very much doubt it - BUT…if Willy has a blinder against Boro then I suppose there’s a small chance the Argentinean stopper could claim a starting place away at Chelsea next week.

At home, F.A. Cup, against a team from a division below us; I think Kolarov will get the nod today. And here’s that word again – I think our manager will HOPE he can trust Mangala to have a good game alongside our captain today. From reports I’ve heard the French powerhouse had another shocker in the friendly against Hamburg; making at least 3 very nervous and clumsy challenges, one of which resulted in a yellow card. What is wrong with the guy? I hope he has a good game but I fear for the lad that it won’t matter; I think it’ll be Martin & Vinny for the Chelsea game regardless. I think Sagna will be called on for this one, as Pellegrini will try to protect Clichy & Zabaleta for the up & coming tsunami at Stamford Bridge.

We’re at home and, therefore, need to be on the front foot for the most part for this one. It’s for that reason that I don’t think we’ll have an out & out defensive midfielder in the starting 11. Fernando to sit on the bench; the slightly more attack minded Fernandinho to start. Ahead of him in the middle is, of course, Silva and with no Nasri & Toure the midfield pretty much picks itself with Milner and Navas on the flanks.

At home and with all 3 strikers finally fit & available, it’s two ‘up top’ for this clash. Aguero is a must; he has to regain his match fitness and he’ll want to get that feeling of hitting the back of the net before the Chelsea clash. And I think our manager will want to mix it up against Boro with a bit of a little ‘n’ large act and, so, Dzeko to get the nod ahead of Jovetic.

Joining the Montenegrin on the bench – and working backwards – should be EDS left-winger / attacking midfielder Brandon Barker. The lad has been highlighted in recent weeks for his fine performances and goals in the EDS and after a slightly nervy start in Abu Dhabi, he did himself proud by all accounts. And with no Samir & Yaya - and with Frank taking a knock and, therefore, probably being wrapped in cotton wool for next weekend’s ‘top of the table’ fixture – Brandon will be hoping for his first team, competitive match debut.

“Security” is the name of the game with the rest of the bench in case we need to shut things down – and, for me and in Kolarov & Mangala’s case, CALM things down – with Fernando, 3 defenders and Joe on the side-line.

Update (2:25pm):

Well my predicted team was a load of ol' tosh, with only 7 from 11 correct.

4-1-3-1-1 (probably); possibly 4-2-3-1 with Milner & Fernando in a 'central 2' behind 3 attacking midfielders (Jovetic one of them) BEHIND Aguero:







Subs: Hart, Clichy, Sagna, Demichelis, Fernandinho, Lampard, Dzeko.

Hopefully my predicted result won't be quite so 'off' as my predicted starting 11 and subs...

Although still concerned about Kolarov as ALWAYS as a defender - and rarely do I feel very confident with Boyata 'in their' either (although he's not had any worse displays that Mangala this season) that's a slightly stronger side than the one I thought he'd go with; with Zabaleta and Jovetic starting instead of Sagna & Dzeko, which is no 'slight' on Sagna there at all.

Result? Well these are flying in the Championship at the moment, with only 1 league defeat in the last 10 games and that being against (also) high-flying Ipswich Town.

They don’t concede many at all either…and that’s an understatement! In 27 league outings this season they have only conceded a very impressive 18 - I’m sure a lot of that is down to the fact that they have Aitor Karanka as head coach; a Spanish defender who has played at the very highest level and, who, was Assistant Manager at Real Madrid for 3 years before moving to the North East. Boro also have an ex-Blue in their ranks in the form of youth-team-player and midfielder Adam Clayton and we all know what that often means…

So what am I trying to say? Well putting it bluntly, even at home this’ll be a real toughy. I say that not just in continued praise of a clearly well-organised North East team, I say that not JUST because we are (still) without the craft of Samir & Yaya but, and I’ve said this quite recently, I just think we look a little ‘off the pace’ at the moment; a little jaded and in need of reinforcements / ALL our top players available and firing.

And I think it’ll come – I’ve got a good feeling that from February onwards we’ll mostly go on an impressive and momentum-building sprint towards the finishing line. As for today, if we had no Aguero to, hopefully, cut through the Smoggies I would be saying a draw; and a unwanted return trip to the Riverside Stadium. However, at home and with patience & hard graft I think we’ll come out on top. It’ll be close but I think we’ll be in the hat for the 5th round draw without the North East team sharing our ball number.

Thanks for your patience [for the late Blog posting] and thanks, as always, for taking the time to read.

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