Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Need to take advantage.

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.


London Stadium

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.

Fluid 4-4-1-1:



De Bruyne______________________________Sterling


___________(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).

Little time so hyperlinks ‘laters’…

Friday, 27 January 2017

Unpredictable factors.

And also…a little moan. It might be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ but I simply cannot recall the last time we drew a team in the F.A. Cup from the 3rd tier of English football or lower. Nearly every time it’s a Championship or Premier League side for some, annoying reason.


And even if it does turn out that we drew a League 1 (or lower) side in the last 10 years then I bet we’ve only done so twice in the last 2 decades. 


I’ll move on…


v Crystal Palace

Selhurst Park

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.









If I can be so bold, I have been fairly accurate of late with 9s, 10s and even the whole 11 correct in my predicted line-ups. However, I could blow that fine form right out of the water today.

I think there will be changes and although we’ve not exactly had a cram-packed January schedule, I do believe our manager will use this opportunity to rest some. To what degree Pep will do that though does hang a big question mark up in the air and this is where I might be wide of the mark. Regardless, my best guess is…

Willy to get his usual cup appearance between the sticks.

It’s anyone’s guess at left-back these days – I’m going for Aleks for this one and on the opposite flank of the defence, Bacary. In between those is likely to be Nicholas & John.

Fabian to get a holding midfield starting role? I’d say so…and likely to be joined by the returning [from a 4-match suspension] Fernandinho; who should be given reign to play slightly more advanced when play allows. I think we’ll also see rare starts from both Nolito & Jesus on the wings, which should add some ‘zip’ to our attacking play / breaks. And then…

…could we see ‘new man’ Gabriel and ‘our man Serg’ up front together? I think Pep is itching to try this out and will use this fixture to experiment with that; with the Brazilian perhaps floating around left to right and attacking from slightly deeper than his Argentine partner.

Angus to get a rare bench spot as back-up to Willy; Gael & “ready to go again” Vinny the defensive options from the side. Young Aleix likely to get a place in ‘the 7’ with very capable ‘game changers’ Kevin, Raheem & Kelechi there in case needed to rescue the game for us (although Nolito, Navas, Jesus & Sergio should have it in them to cause some considerable damage to an often-fragile Palace defence).

Notable absences: Outfield player with gloves on (not selected), Pablo Zabaleta (not selected / rested), Fernando (not selected), Ilkay Gundogan (injured for rest of season), Leroy Sane (not selected / rested), David Silva (not selected / rested) and Yaya Toure (not selected / rested).

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

There is a danger that the home side could swamp the midfield with 5 or even 6 at times and, therefore, Fabian Delph & Fernandinho could find themselves a little overrun; leaving our front two either frustrated and lacking supply or having to come back deep to help reclaim the ball. Could happen.

I’d like better options for the left-back of course…and it has been rumoured that Fabian could fill this slot from time to time this season IF we don’t sign a left-back in the next few days and IF the England man can stay fit – he has played there before for both Leeds United & Aston Villa we are informed.

But if our Spanish boss goes with this set up and personnel then I’m fairly happy. It’s a system that screams ‘pacey, potentially devastating counter attacks’ - solid enough with a better keeper (in my opinion), a ‘back 4’, two midfielders with energy and the ability to defend from the middle and then the pace & threat of Nolito, Navas, Jesus & Aguero.

I also think it’ll be that sort of game from both sides – slightly cautious and defending in numbers and then bombing forward with direct pace whenever opportunities arise.

Result? Well they’re just bobbins at the moment and, for the most part, we’re on a fairly decent run of “only” losing 3 games in the last 10 in all competitions…although we’ve “only” actually won 5 of those and have shipped-in 12 goals in that time. Far better form than today’s hosts but not great for a talent-packed team lead by one Pep Guardiola.

In addition to that, we HAVE already beaten them at Selhurst Park and, so, we should kill ‘em…...right?

Well before you answer there are some other factors to consider:

-       Sam’s “saviour magic” [at taking over struggling, Premier League clubs] may not have ‘kicked in’ quite just yet but this fella has an uncanny knack, sometimes, of upsetting ‘the flow’. He’s got a nasty habit of pulling something out of various (very large if they are his) hats in order to upset the odds.

-       This is the F.A. Cup we’re talking about – the ‘great leveller’. Anything can - and probably will - happen this afternoon in this competition.

-       And then we have the fact that someone at Manchester City recently went into a drawer or cupboard in one of the many rooms at Manchester City Football Club; found our old “Great Unpredictables” tag, dusted it down and firmly attached it to our fairly new, club badge. Yeah…cheers for that. Proof of that is in the afore mentioned 10 games, which reads: D L W W W L W W L D. It’s all over the place at the moment and if I was to take it back even further, the picture doesn’t change much; making predicting City’s results as hard as it was to do throughout the 80s, 90s, 00s (and most likely way before and sometime after that too). We’re back (I’m sorry today)!

But even if Pep does rotate it a little for this one, that starting 11 and back-up on the bench should be good enough to see off a Crystal Palace side in AWFUL form; albeit a team who will want to use this round of the cup as a springboard to revive their ailing league campaign.

I think it will be close; I think it might even be a bit scary for us at times. But if Pep does shuffle the system and start Gabriel Jesus with Sergio, then I think we’ll have enough to advance to the 5th round.

I was teetering on the edge of a draw and, therefore, a replay back at our place…but I’ve nudged myself over to a City win.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Another decent rest and hopeful ‘reaction’…

…following a day to forget last Sunday. 


Oh yeah…and we have Gabriel Jesus available for selection.

v Tottenham Hotspur

Etihad Stadium

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.

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


__De Bruyne___________________________Sterling__



___________(Outfield player with gloves on)_________

Usual suspect in and around that white, netted thing at the back.

A likely change of flanking defenders from the last game sees Aleks & Bacary step in; Nicholas & John in between those.

Pablo likely to be asked to provide another defensive midfield role and joined, once again, by Yaya & David…and I’m going for Kevin & Raheem to be given another chance to create and attempt to open-up the ‘oppo’ form the wing areas.

Sergio to be on the receiving end of all that creativity.

Willy on the bench as cover for the Spaniard and Gael possibly the only defender on the side. Similarly, Fabian possibly the only central midfield change-option and then after that it’s attack, attack, attack replacements in Nolito, Leroy, new boy Gabriel and Kelechi.

Notable absences: Vincent Kompany (likely to be given more time to increase fitness levels following injury), Fernandinho (suspended: 3 of 3 and, so, the last one…AGAIN), Fernando (just recovered from injury / not selected), Ilkay Gundogan (injured for rest of season) & Jesus Navas (not selected).

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

Against a strong, energetic Spurs midfield, that selection could look a little ‘leggy’ and so I would hope to see Kevin & Raheem helping out considerably in a ‘fluid 5’. Other than that, it’s okay. If we (and perhaps now Pep?) had any faith in our keeper and defence - and possibly a world-class defensive midfielder - then what an attacking line-up we could have, especially at home!

Result? Not one pundit I’ve heard on the radio, at least and in the last few days, has put us down for a win – the best we’ve received is a ‘draw prediction’. I get why that is.

These are my ‘weighing-up factors’:

-       Best defensive record in the league against a home side whose shooting accuracy radar has been ‘on the blink’ for some considerable time now.

-       19 goals scored in the last 6 league games against a home side defensive unit that scares the hell out of its own fans.

-       6 wins from 6 in the league (8 from 10) against an inconsistent City side who have won 6 but also lost 4 in the last 10 games.

Not sounding good this, is it?

-       We’re at home (although that’s meant little so many times this season).

-       We…SHOULD see a reaction following the Everton shambles.

-       We’re boosted by the arrival of a talented forward / striker and…

-       …at the risk of sounding even more desperate; they’re missing a really good and vital cog in their defence in the form of Jan Vertonghen.

All things considered? It’s a score draw for me.