Saturday, 29 April 2017

Games coming thick 'n' fast - some rotation I think…

2 games with just a 64-¼ hour gap in between is a little heavy going; even for a team drilled-to-be-as-fit as most players / teams on the planet. And after a Trafford / Manchester Derby too…although our defence didn’t exactly get overworked on Thursday night. 


That - and the fact that tomorrow’s opponents actually managed to score AND record win (v Sunderland) last Wednesday; dragging themselves to within 6 points of avoiding ‘the drop’ with a far better goal difference of those around them - I think has actually made this fixture – against our past bogey team and on a regular bogey ground for us – a little more interesting / tricky.

v Middlesbrough

Riverside Stadium

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.

Fluid 4-5-1 / 4-4-1-1 / 4-4-2:







There’s a few ‘ifs, buts & maybes’ about some of our player’s injury / recovery-wise so there’s room for extra error here…

Willy back in net.

Gael to get his place back on the left of defence for this one; the recovered Bacary likely to start on the opposite flank I would suggest. In between those is ‘go again’ Vinny & Nicholas.

It might surprise some to see me guessing that Pep would choose the older legs of Yaya over Kevin for a game so soon after a Thursday night one but I think, if fit enough of course, Pep chooses form over anything else. That, for me, is why Yaya ‘gets the nod’. Next to Yaya I think we’ll see the return of David after a brief injury lay-off. Either side of those I think we’ll see Jesus resume his more advanced, right-sided duties and Leroy to ‘go again’ on the left.

Two up front? I think we just might see that, as Guardiola gives the 'Gabriel & Sergio combo' a try (God help Boro if that comes off!).

Angus gets promoted to ‘keeper cover’; Pablo & the returning-from-injury John provide defensive replacement options. Fernandinho to be rested but there in case needed and is joined by the more attacking Kevin, Raheem & Kelechi.

Notable absences: Outfield player with gloves on (injured), Aleks Kolarov (not selected / rested), Fabian Delph (not selected), Fernando (not selected) & Nolito (not selected).

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

Well it’s a little new-looking and as long as the legs of David (31) & Yaya (almost 34) can handle that duo in the middle of the park (I’m sure assisted by, at the very least, Gabriel) then I’m fine with that 11.

Result? As I say, for me this has a slight ‘extra edge’ & danger to it following our host’s result in the North-East Derby in midweek; one which virtually consigned The Black Cats to Championship football next season but, which, also gave their own season a glimmer of hope to say the least. If I was Steve Agnew, I’d have been hammering home to my players that very fact every waking hour of the day! The Smoggies have also had an extra 24 hours to recover from their local rival match.

But we’re playing really well at the moment; have nearly everyone fit (including some really key players) and have SO much creativity – along with now-added ‘goal threat’ with our young Brazilian back from injury – that even our-often ‘bogey team / ground’ surely can’t scupper our continued efforts to finish 3rd. For me this is 3 away points.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

OK…shrug that one off and move on.

We continue the fight to finish 3rd (or 4th at the very least) so let’s put the F.A. Cup semi-final out of our minds and focus on 2 games in 2-½ days; starting with a visit from a team from Trafford.

Alright…I’ll have a little word on last Sunday’s game.

1.    We played really quite well for the most part; dominated play for large parts of the game and in addition to taking the lead against a team set out to mostly defend for the first 60 minutes or thereabouts, we crashed the ‘woodwork’…twice!

2.    We were denied a good goal after the ball didn’t cross the line when-being crossed into the box and Arsenal kicked us to pieces without being punished; especially in the first half and, which, left David Silva, Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero battered & bruised. In fact, it was City who received more yellow cards (5 to their 2) as we begun to retaliate slightly. I won’t mention the ‘penalty that wasn’t’ ‘casue they should have had one similarly, so that’s 1-1 in terms of being denied a ‘spot kick’.

3.    Our shooting radar, not for the first time, was ‘on the blink’ again. For all of our creativity – and Pep has quite rightly bemoaned this several times – we just don’t do ourselves any favours in front of the oppo’s goal. Against Arsenal in the semi-final we managed 20 shots ‘in anger’ but only 3 of those were ‘on target’ (for the record Arsenal managed the same number of ‘on target shots’ from just 9 attempts). We create…but we don’t ‘alf waste a hell of a lot! Imagine what we’ll do when Gabriel Jesus is back & firing AND we purchase an addition striker in the summer (2 if this is Sergio’s last season with us)?!


…v Manyoo

Etihad Stadium

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.

Fluid 4-5-1:


____________Toure__________De Bruyne__________



___________Outfield player with gloves on__________

Lots of doubt here with “Slight doubts”, “Late fitness tests” and, otherwise, sketchy information about injuries. But, here goes…

The “Yellow Peril” appears to be back in favour and, so, is likely to get the nod to start tonight.

In front of him? I think it’ll be the same back 4.

In front of them? I think we’ll see Raheem start this one (has been on the bench of late but we have no David Silva); the rest the same, although Fernandinho did take a knock last weekend.

Sergio should be recovered enough for this one.

Willy as keeper cover; Aleks & Pablo the defensive replacement options. Fernando & Fabian the defensive midfielders in the ‘side 7’; Gabriel & Kelechi the attacking ones.

Notable absences: Bacary Sagna (injured…but close to a return), John Stones (injured but, similarly, on his way back), Ilkay Gundogan (injured for rest of season), David Silva (injured), & Nolito (not selected).

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

I’d have Willy in net and Zaba on the right of defence for this one but, otherwise, I’m happy with that.

Result? For games like this you have to listening to your head and not your heart. Sometimes they tell you the same thing of course.

You have to go back a whopping 24 Premier League games to 23rd October 2016 to find Manyoo’s last league defeat (4-0 losers to Chelsea)! Wow! Had they managed to turn just half of their 12 draws into wins they’d have been just 3 points behind the afore-mentioned-league-leaders-Chelsea right now. Huh…fine margins hey?!

And their away record? Not only better than their home record but considerably better than OUR home record! They’ve won 10 to our 8; scored ‘on the road’ the same number as we’ve managed to muster at home (27) and conceded 2 less!

All things considered – and this is a prediction not a ‘hope so’ fearful or otherwise – I’m sticking with my recent mini-prediction piece and will say a draw. And do you know what? If it keeps them behind us - and then looking at both teams’ fixtures after this one - I’d take that right now. I’d love the win of course…

Additionally, a red in my local who often speaks lots of sense (I KNOW?!) and, therefore, I respect his opinion; said to me on Tuesday, “Even if we beat you on Thursday I think you’ll still finish above us in the league [looking at both sets of fixtures]”. I agree.