Tuesday, 19 January 2010

United Preview

Make no mistake, regardless of what they say, this is a massive game for both halves of Manchester. It has been almost 18 months since we suddenly became the richest club in the world, and we are, slowly becoming a club worthy of that moniker. However, change, particularly the sort of wholesale change expected in Abu Dhabi, takes time. Only the most foolhardy of fans expected instant success, but is it unrealistic to back us to reach a final at this stage of our development? Perhaps. Particularly when standing in our way over two legs are the red half of Manchester, the most successful English club over the last two decades. But I said this was an important game for both halves of Manchester, and it is. United are not as strong as they were last year. The crush of debt meant an £80m deal for Ronaldo was impossible to turn down, and they lost Carlos Tevez to us. Whilst replacements have been drafted in to an extent, no-one can argue that United are weaker now than when they lifted the Premier League trophy almost nine months ago. So this match, over two legs will act as a sort of litmus test in measuring our progress, and who better to measure against than our biggest and bitterest rivals?

If I am brutally honest, I am not overly optimistic. I think this game comes a month to early for us. We are still riddled with injuries, and have had only a month under Mancini. The display at Everton showed that maybe we had not moved forward quite as much as hoped. Some players were woefully absent from the game, and Manchester United will take no prisoners. A lot of our hopes will rest on the diminutive Carlos Tevez. It is clear this fixture means a lot to him- his effort against United earlier in the season was almost unmatched, and you will remember he was carrying an injury for that game.

Much has been said about what team SAF will put out tonight. The fact that the game is over two legs will I think have an effect on his choice. Whilst a couple of 'kids' could end up in the squad, I think it will be mostly squad players, such as Neville, Giggs (if fit) and Owen. United have there own injury worries, and this is probably their lowest priority. However I do not think SAF will accept letting us through to the final, and dependant on the result of the first leg, could play a stronger side at Old Trafford next week.

But regardless, we cannot worry too much about our opponents choices tonight. Our choices are limited as to who we can play. With Santa Cruz injured, I would expect Benjani to come in for him. I would not expect Bellamy to start, his injuries may rule him out. Petrov also came off after 45 minutes on Saturday, so he must be a question mark for the game. SWP should start, his cameo was one of the only bright sparks of an other wise dismal evening on Saturday. If Bellamy and Petrov are both unavailable though, who will take over on the left? One option would be Robinho, starting him in this game would be a big statement from Mancini, and would surely do wonders for his confidence. But can another no-show performance be risked? At the back, I would like to see Onuoha return if available, shifting Richards to right back instead of Zabaleta, and an other wise unchanged line up:

---------De Jong---Barry----------

Prediction: a narrow defeat, City 1 - 2 United

Monday, 18 January 2010

Injury Update

Roque Santa Cruz is set to be out for a month, the official site reports today. However, Stephen Ireland is expected to make the bench.

Wanye Bridge is expected to be back in about 10 days, with Lescott another 10 days on top of that.

Rumor: Robinho On Way Out After Subbing

Monday's papers have speculation that Robinho will be on his way out after being subbed off, having only come on as a substitute in the 9th minute.

The article however has no real substance, and is just speculation by the paper writer. The quotes from Mancini are taken as bites from the larger post match interviews.

Much has been bad of Robinho going off as a substitute, but he came on in the 9th minute, playing 51 minutes off football, meaning he basically played from the start of the match. Petrov, who did start, played only 45 minutes.

Whilst i'm not going to argue for Robinho's form as of late, he is coming back off a long lay off, and is still getting match fit again. This is a classic case of a player suffering a lack of confidence, and the media targeting of him, when he was no more culpable than others at Goodison, is not going to help in the long run.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Everton Ratings

Given- 6 Made some good saves, not to blame for free kick or penalty.

Zabaleta- 4 Another foul that has cost us. Ineffective

Richards- 5 Disappointing after a good performance on Monday night. Needless penalty given away

Kompany- 6 A pretty solid performance at the back.

Garrido- 6 A nothing performance, but reasonable in defense

Barry- 5 Disappointing. Hid when a performance was needed

De Jong- 5 Again, disappointing. Dominated in midfield by Everton

Petrov- 4 Another no show. Should be replaced by SWP

Bellamy- 5 Nothing was coming off, but not for lack of trying. Form has dipped in the past weeks

Tevez- 5 Seemed to pick up an injury early in the game. Did not play as well in the primary striker role. Still, tireless running as always

RSC- NA Living up to his sick note reputation. Injured after 5 minutes


Robinho- 4 Ineffective again away from home.

SWP- 6 Came off the bench in the second half and looked bright, taking players on. Should definatly start on Tuesday

Benjani- 5 Was not able to make in impact in the second half.

Everton Thoughts

Well, it was always going to happen- Roberto Mancini has lost his first game in charge of Manchester City. What was not a certainty however was the abject nature of the loss. Whilst perhaps not as spineless as the Tottenham performance that ultimately cost Hughes his job, it was not far off.

It all got off to a bad start when Santa Cruz had to come off after 5 minutes, to be replaced by Robinho. This pushed Tevez into the main striker role, as opposed to supporting a player like Benjani or Adebayor.

All the players that had earned such praise in the last few weeks managed to give performances that were shadows of what they are capable off. The promising midfield duo of De Jong and Barry were particularly poor, both were comprehensively outplayed in the center of the park by an admittedly superior Everton side. Bellamy worked hard as always, but ultimately failed to contribute, and for all his huffing and puffing since the departure about Hughes about almost expecting a position in the side week in week out, was almost as ineffective as Robinho.

The two goals conceded were both from set pieces, the first from a free kick, given away by contender for clumsiest defender of the year, Zabaleta, and the second a silly penalty given away by Micah Richards.

As disappointing as the whole performance was, lets not get carried away. This defeat was only the third of the term, equal best with Chelsea, and came on a weekend where Liverpool and Tottenham both drew in games they would probably be expected to win, and at the time of writting, Aston Villa are also drawing at West Ham. What is more important is that Mancini learns about his squad in advance of the important semi final on Tuesday.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Everton Preview

Today sees City travel to Everton, in what is widely considered Mancini's toughest game since taking charge almost one month ago.

We are unfortunate to be facing Everton now, as players return from injury, and they put in some resurgent performances, particularly against Arsenal. Goodison Park is a tough place to go on a cold winter afternoon, and i'm sure Moyes will be after a chance to one up City, whom he slated (rather ridiculously in my opinion) over the pursuit of Lescott earlier this season.

Whilst our injury list is thinning, this game comes too soon for Stephen Ireland, Wayne Bridge or new signing Patrick Vieira. With the important game against United coming up on Tuesday, I would expect Bellamy to be rested, with SWP returning to the side. Santa Cruz should also be available. Mancini spoke in his press conference yesterday about the possibility of Robinho playing in this game, but I do not believe he will start. This afternoons game will be a physical battle, and I do not believe its a game in which he would perform.

So here is my guess for the team:

------De Jong---Barry----------

I think this will be a tight game, and I can see a score draw. 1-1.

Vieira Set for FA Cup Debut

Mancini has stated in an interview on the official site that new signing Patrick Vieira will not feature in the games against Everton, or the first leg of the Carling Cup. If all goes well, he is expected to play in the FA Cup against Scunthorpe.

In other injury news, Stephen Ireland is possibly in line to return against United on Tuesday, with Onuoha and Bridge also close to returning.