With Liverpool & Chelsea only sharing a point each last night, Spurs drawing a blank, Arsenal losing at home and then having to go to Stamford Bridge at the weekend; we really do need to grab 6 points in the next 2 games in order to stake a real claim in the ‘top 4’ at least, starting tonight away at West Ham (7:45pm KO GMT) followed by Swansea City at home on Sunday (1:30pm KO GMT).
Not much time and so I’ll crack on with a brief one…
v West Ham United.
Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.
___________(Outfield player with gloves on)_________
Subs: Caballero, Clichy, Sagna, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Sane, Iheanacho.
It’s a case of ‘maintaining momentum’ vs ‘possible rotation’ following an away F.A. Cup game just 4 days earlier. Another difficult one to predict personnel wise for this one…
‘Fella in yella’ likely to regain his place somewhere near our goal area.
Both left-backs played at the weekend and, so, ‘take your pick’! Aleks seems slightly preferred by our manager and so I’m going for him to play on the left of defence. Pablo was rested for the F.A. Cup and so should start tonight; Stones likely to start this one too and, then, does Pep give Vinny another go for him to regain his fitness or does he play it ‘gently, gently’? I think he might see 4 days as enough time to ‘rest & assess’ and so I’m going for our Captain to start.
Again, it could be argued that both David & Yaya could have a night off but they played SO well against Palace on Saturday I think Guardiola would hope they can both ‘go again’. Kevin an almost sure starter and with Raheem having a decent outing when last in London, he should ‘get the nod’ too, although Sane is doing all the right things at the moment to stake a claim…
Gabriel surely to start and if he’s over his knock (rumours are that he is), then we could see the first FULL partnership with Sergio.
Willy returns to his seat on the side (shame) and I’m going for a trio of defenders on the bench of Gael, Bacary & Nicholas. Midfielder Fernandinho (who I miscalculated by thinking he’d served his last game ban ‘last time out’ – oooops…) returns and should at LEAST get a spot on the bench; Sane & Iheanacho the attacking replacement options.
Notable absences: Fabian Delph (not selected), Fernando (not selected), Ilkay Gundogan (injured for rest of season), Jesus Navas (not selected) & Nolito (not selected).
Do I agree with Pep’s (predicted) line-up?
Silva & Toure will have to work their socks off but, no doubt, will get considerable help from De Bruyne and more-so Jesus from what I’ve seen already. Same ol’ concerns on the left of defence and with the guy "between the sticks" of course but…yeah, looks very good to me; especially with Kompany, Stones and Zaba ‘back there’.
Result? This is going to be a TOTALLY different game to the one we saw at the London Stadium in the 3rd round of the F.A. Cup on 6th January, which saw us totally dominate and come away with a 5-0 win.
I don’t think this is exactly a ‘revenge game’ in our host’s eyes; in fact, that result - together with issues surrounding Dimitri Payet - appears to have acted like a cold shower, as they have since recorded 6 ‘goals for’ and 6 points.
It’ll be close but with a double boost of Vinny at the back and Gabriel up front, I’m more confident that we can gain some consistency now. We played extremely well against Spurs at home on 21st January and again at Selhurst Park last Saturday. It’s a City win for me (and a sneaky feeling also that our new Brazilian will get on the score sheet).
Expected weather conditions during the game: Overcast, dry and really quite mild indeed for early February with temperatures at 10C in a light, Southerly breeze.
Little time so hyperlinks ‘laters’…