Saturday, 27 August 2016

“Everybody’s fit, everybody’s ready”

That was the surprising & pleasing words used by Pep yesterday when asked if there were any fresh injuries; news injury-plagued West Ham won’t have wanted to hear.

All 30 players trained…

How on earth do I now try to predict, accurately, a starting 11 & subs from that lot?! It’s a nice ‘mini challenge’ to have though and a somewhat exciting one.

v West Ham United

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.

Fluid 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 come 4-2-4:


___________________De Bruyne___________________




Notable absences: Claudio Bravo (not selected), Bacary Sagna (not selected / just returned from 'a niggle'), Tosin Adarabioyo (not selected), Eliaquim Mangala (not selected and possibly close to a loan move), Fernando (not selected), Samir Nasri (not selected and possibly close to a loan move), Jesus Navas (not selected), Yaya Toure (not selected), Wilfried Bony (not selected and possibly close to a loan move).

Huh…chuck in a few EDS players and that list of ‘notable absences’ would make a pretty decent Premier League team in itself!

Willy to take his place between the sticks once again, following a night off in midweek and before taking his place as ‘Number 2’ to new signing Claudio; who is just settling in following his move on Wednesday / Thursday.

Manager favourite - and improved player - Aleks on the left of defence (when he’s not darting into midfield or wherever else he might be asked to go), Nicholas & John likely to be the centre-back pairing for this one and for now at least and having had 8-days off, we should see ‘Pablo senior’ on the right.

A familiar-looking 'midfield & wing 5' for this one again I think – Nolito & Raheem to provide most of the width; David, Fernandinho & Kevin most of the central passing & thrust.

All of these supporting an in-form Sergio up front.

Now despite previously stating that those players who were recovering from long-term injuries / regaining fitness wouldn’t be available until after the up & coming international break / for the Manyoo game; Guardiola did state yesterday that ‘all were fine’. So…

Likely to be making his last appearance at the Etihad this season at least and as a spectator on the subs bench (or, more accurately, expensive padded seats) is ‘our Joe’. Gael & Bacary to provide the flanking defence / midfield support cover and we could well see ‘our skip’ Vinny as part of ‘the 7’ on the side (and is likely to get a small run out if the situation at the time suits). Delph likely to survive the ‘everyone is fit / available’ scenario as a stable midfield back-up and he could well be joined by two new signings yet to make their debuts; in the form of central & creative midfielder Ilkay and attacking winger Leroy. Finally, in a talent-packed bench, is Kelechi…and that’s despite crashing to the floor in spectacular style on Wednesday night, which saw two Steaua Bucharest players dive towards the young striker before several medical staff rushed to tend to the Nigerian. From where I was sat, I honestly thought it was a ‘defrib moment’ and thank God it wasn’t of course! Midweek reports suggested that it was a muscle issue; one site still has him down as injured with a ‘hammy’ and yet his manager has said that there are no injuries going into this one…and so he gets on the bench as far as I’m concerned.

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

Absolutely – who could argue with that?!

Result? There’s a little bit of ‘beware the wounded animal’ about this one; after tomorrow afernoon's visitors were booed off the pitch by their own fans at the London Stadium last Thursday for being both beaten on the night and knocked out of the Europa League at such an early stage.

However, as I previous alluded to The Hammers have the joint-highest injury list in the Premier League at the moment (although robust midfielder Mark Noble might be fit to take part) and some of those absent are big, ‘sure starters’ & 'game changers' too.

That…the fact that they've only had 2-1/2 days to rest & prepare for their trip to Manchester; that our players have 'hit the ground running' / look to have quickly taken on Pep’s ethos & playing style AND, in complete contrast to West Ham, have everyone available to select from; I couldn’t be going into this home game with more confidence of a home win.

There’s not even any sign of that ‘old City feeling’. If you are of a certain era you’ll know the one - “This is the sort of game, then, where we’ll muck it up / shoot ourselves in the foot; a missed opportunity of 3 points and a good goal difference".

Instead, this one could even be a crackin’ day at the office / big win…

UPDATE ON THE WEATHER - 28th August 2016: What a rubbish weather forecast from the BBC that was...

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