Saturday, 27 February 2016

First chance of silverware – let’s ‘go at em’!

When we’re good, we’re very good. We’ve proven that this season in the first-5, devastating games; again against Sevilla away and again for large parts against a very lively Dynamo Kyiv side last Wednesday. 


Klopp will have his team equally lively, organised and ‘up for it’ but if we play to our strengths and the players have belief in themselves then we can take these…and take the cup home with us to Manchester.

v Liverpool

I'm just about to set off ‘down there’ for this one and so it’s a fairly brief piece. Predicted line-up, subs and outcome…






Well…our manager has already nailed his colours to having the Argentine keeper in for both domestic cup competitions and, so, I suppose he has to honour that agreement right to the end.

I’ve said it before; Gael, Vinny, Nicholas & Zaba is probably our strongest possible defence we have (and that’s certainly taking nothing whatsoever away from Bacary, who played on Wednesday night after returning from a slight niggly injury).

‘Same again’ I think for the rest – Fernando to ‘sit in’, Fernandinho certainly ahead of him either in the middle or on the right wing (a bit of a shock decision against Kyiv but one that worked AND, which, allowed David to be in his more-dangerous position in the middle) and Yaya ‘in the mix’ somewhere in the middle too. Raheem & David in support further forward (David, as I say, possibly in the middle and ‘just off’) and Sergio to continue his fine form up front.

He could start Kelechi instead of Yaya ‘just off’ – I did consider that…

Strong defensive bench - Joe the back-up keeper; Aleks, Bacary and Eliaquim all in there as defensive change-options. No real midfield choices in ‘the 7’ that I can see, although we do have others on the pitch already who can 'move around'. A returning right-wing option perhaps in Jesus Navas who has been back in training slightly earlier than origianlly thought; possibly TWO strikers as cover in the form of the returning Wilfried and Kelechi.

Notable absences: Martin Demichelis (not selected),  Kevin De Bruyne (injured), Fabian Delph (injured), and Samir Nasri (injured). A much shorter-looking injury list!

Do I agree with Pellegrini’s (predicted) line-up?

In respect of the goalkeeper? Absolutely NOT!  I’m sorry people - on this occasion I don’t give a flying whatsit for loyalty and "promises made" in this case.

Why? Well if the idea is to win a trophy and, in attempting to do so play your best fit & available players in a final (I’ll underline that last bit just in case Alan Shearer is reading), then you play Joe Hart in net – simple as that.

Do you want a Why? number 2? Simply put, Joe is currently our ‘player of the season’ by a mile at the moment, in my opinion.

Want a Why? number 3? For every decent shot-stop Willy makes he makes 2 or 3 howling mistakes and, to be blunt, he scares the **** out of me a lot of the time!

I don’t want that doubt in my net, in a final, against ANYONE!

Other than that, I might be tempted to selection Kelechi Iheanacho in place of Yaya Toure just behind Sergio Aguero but all else looks fine to me.

Result? This is a real, hard-to-call, 50/50 game. Both teams with spluttering, stuttering form and, of course, in a final anything can happen in a ‘one off’.

Despite our unpredictable nature this season, however, I’m going for a stronger-core side - following some injury returners at least - and expect them to be buoyed by their performance and result in the Ukraine 3 days ago; taking that confidence and turning this one into a trophy-winning victory.

It MIGHT take extra time but it’s a Blue, flag-waving Wembley win for me!

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Rested…and so let’s put this one to bed

‘Job all-but done’ would be words I’d love to both hear and read after tonight’s game. 


With us-playing our second leg at home just short of 3-½ days after our away game at Norwich City and just over 4-½ before a certain Manchester v Trafford derby; it would be nice not-to-have-to ‘go hell for leather’ in the second of our 2 games against Dynamo Kyiv in order to progress to the quarter finals of the Champions League.

RESTED v rested

Most of our ‘first teamers’ will not have played a competitive match for just over 10 days when the referee blows his whistle to indicate the start of the match tonight. At this stage of the season that sounds like an amazing statistic…and one brought about by a much needed and bold decision from our Engineer, Manuel Pellegrini.

It was a decision that has sparked furore amongst some – so much so, in fact, it appears to have-now completely overshadowed any level of criticism a certain Manyoo Football Club got for completely removing their team from the F.A. Cup in 2000 (sanctioned / approved by the Football Association) for, instead, a FIFA World Club Championship tournament…a glorified friendly competition.

Mr Shearer, representing the so-called impartial BBC, was very forthright indeed in his opinion about the fact that we had included, in our squad for our F.A. Cup clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last Sunday afternoon, 7 EDS players. We HAD, he blustered, disrespected the competition.

He did this with absolutely no mention whatsoever that we had Eliaquim Mangala, Bacary Sagna, Kevin De Bruyne, Fabian Delph, Samir Nasri, Jesus Navas and Wilfried Bony all out injured. Where was the balanced viewpoint? Where, if neutrals had tuned in all over the world not-knowing those facts about our football club, was the information in order to give a true and whole picture of our situation? All of those players apart from Eliaquim Mangala, by the way Mr failed, ex-manager of Newcastle United, are STILL out for tonight’s game…

So…with the F.A. having it within their power to grant us a Saturday fixture and, therefore, allowing us more rest, travel and preparation time for our trip to the Ukraine but chose not to; does that same failed, ex-manager of Newcastle United that he-helped to relegate - and failed job applicant for the manager’s job at Cardiff City – not believe that our manager had to-then ‘pick his battles’ and make a very shrewd decision by resting our star players who WEREN’T actually out injured? Clearly not…and he continued, unabated, to be outraged that we had dared to start 5 promising young players from our academy (so that’s 6 first-team players who started last Sunday) against last season’s Premier League Champions…and who managed to hold them on their own ground at half time 1-1 [in an eventual 5-1 defeat].

And if you wanted the BBC to add more insult to injury then, on the pitch, was ex-Chelsea man Graeme Le Saux. Now I have heard that within the world of football players the Jersey-born man was considered to be very intelligent. Perhaps so…and intelligence doesn’t, I suppose, include being “wise” enough to realise that you are, like Alan sat in the studio, representing the BBC and are, therefore, supposed to at least TRY to be a little impartial. He couldn’t have been less so as he tried to hide his Chelsea shirt under his more-formal, outer wear…

Utterly pathetic…both!

Seething? Yeah you could say that – enough for me to not-only comment several times about the pair on the WEB pages of the Manchester Evening News but also lodge an official complaint on-line to the BBC and Tweet Mr Shearer himself.

I’m (mostly) over it now…and I digress too.

So…where was I? Oh yeah, RESTED v rested. Our lads have had a good ol’ break and lots of preparation time for this important fixture in our club’s history-making venture…but so have Kyiv. In fact, the home side haven’t played a competitive match since 9th December 2015! Instead they started a series of friendly matches in their winter-break period – a whopping 13 in fact (where’s “the break”?) - as they attempt to warm themselves up for the second part of their season; starting with us.

Will that have helped them? Will the rest period and gap to allow injured players to return go in their favour tonight? Will they come back / start a little rusty? To be honest…I’ve no idea.

But what I DO know is that, for whatever reason, our top starts who HAVEN’T been seeing more of the physio room than the training pitch in recent weeks (and months) have-themselves looked a little jaded and, some have commented, nowhere near fit enough. That being the case – and although it’s hardly been a winter break as such – those 10 days without a game should energise them ahead of tonight’s game, followed by a trip to a League Cup final on Sunday and then a Premier League game at Anfield in 7-days’ time.

v Dynamo Kyiv

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome…






Hart back in net (thank God)!

Joe + Gael, Vinny, Nicholas and ‘go again’ Pablo is probably about the strongest defence we can muster and, so, apart from Zaba having to play again following 90+ minutes on Sunday; we have a fully rested and robust (on paper at least) rear-guard thanks to our manager’s forced choices (take note Mr Shearer).

It’s probably ‘go again’ also for Fernando in-protected that back-line and just ahead of him in a ‘duel role’ that should include lots of attacking support, is Fernandinho. Yaya should play in a similar role to the latter-named Brazilian and out on the flanks both pace & craft from two in-need of their recent respite (Raheem & David).

Serge to surge forward with the support of his attacking colleagues.

Willy back on the bench (thank God). Aleks, the returning Eliaquim and Martin make up the defensive insurance, although Martin could be used in a defensive midfield role at some point. Manu Garcia & Brandon Barker likely to make up the more-attacking midfield replacement options (at the risk of more Alan Shearer wrath for daring to disrespect THIS competition by possibly selecting 2 youth players) and Kelechi our back-up striker.

Notable absences: Already covered in this piece.

Do I agree with Pellegrini’s (predicted) line-up?

It’s a shame both Zaba & Fernando have to play again after a ‘full 90’ and 78-minutes played on Sunday respectively (no Bacary or Fabian) but yes; I’d go with that too.

Result? Perhaps not the 3-goal cushion I have in mind as a minimum ‘perfect result’ but I can see us-taking a lead into the home leg on 15th March.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Chelsea v City’s EDS (UPDATED 21.02.2016)

Should be an “interesting” one…

v Chelsea

Predicted line-up, subs & outcome…




___________________________M. Garcia____________


UPDATE (21.02.2016): Angelino, Kongolo & Bytyqi will not be featuring in today's game as they played in the EDS's 1-0 win over Manyoo. Such is the cost of trying to predict such an unpredictable team-selection type-game...

However,  it has been confirmed that the first team will include 7 EDS players in the squad for selection today and none of the rest that I've included in my predicted starting 11 featured in yesterday's game.

Our manager has already explained that Willy will be used both in the League & FA Cups and so…Willy it is between the sticks.

I’ll be brief about the rest [rather than commenting, as usual, about each player / department] in saying that as much as Pellegrini and the Manchester City hierarchy would want to progress in the F.A. Cup, they want the Champions League more. And, so, with the Football Association refusing to bring this fixture forward 24 hours in order to give us more rest, preparation & travelling time before we face Dynamo Kyiv; I can honestly see that apart from ‘first teamers’ Willy & Kelechi at opposite ends of the pitch; sandwiched in-between them is highly likely to be ‘the EDS’.

It might seem extreme but, if he doesn’t go with a majority of youth, what would be the point in pitching-in 5 or 6 first team players if the whole idea is to protect them for Wednesday night’s clash in the Ukraine? I also think our manager will do this to ‘make a point’ to the footballing authorities.

Then again, I could be wildly wrong with this predicted line-up…

If he DOES go with this line-up, then it’ll be a strong bench. Hart as back-up keeper; Kolarov to, perhaps, get some game time following his recent little-injury lay-off / comeback, Zaba as experienced cover for the opposite side and Martin likewise for the middle of the defence. Attacking option-replacements are likely to come in the form of Raheem, Yaya & Sergio.

Notable absences: Gael Clichy (not selected), Vincent Kompany (not selected), Eliaquim Mangala (injured), Nicholas Otamendi (not selected), Bacary Sagna (just back in training following an injury lay-off), Kevin De Bruyne (injured), Fabian Delph (injured), Fernandinho (not selected), Fernando (not selected), Samir Nasri (injured), Jesus Navas (injured), David Silva (not selected), Wilfried Bony (injured).

What a list!

Do I agree with Pellegrini’s (predicted) line-up?

Well, as at least one other Blue commented on a forum in mid-week, I have to agree and say that I would have ‘blooded’ a few more EDS / youngsters throughout our injury-plagued season so far and, therefore, not have to throw them in at the deep, deep end with an away game at the current champions of England. For some, this’ll be a full debut game!

But I can fully understand our manager’s and club’s stance with regards to the F.A.’s (poor) decision and being forced to, therefore, ‘pick our battles’ in terms of competitions.

But do I agree with this predicted team selection? To protect some of the youngsters then I’d say, “No” - I think it needs a sprinkling of experience in there.

With the Champions League game looming in mind then perhaps, at the back, Kolarov on the left and Martin in the middle. In midfield, perhaps Fernando ‘defending / protecting’ and, therefore, allowing the youthful, exuberant attacking midfielders to simply ‘go out and enjoy / express themselves’.

Result? A defeat – goodbye to this one for this season and a reduced fixture list in order to focus on the other three, remaining cups.