During his managerial career, Manchester City’s new boss Manuel Pellegrini has been the master underdog, taking a fairly ordinary Malaga to the brink of the ECL Semi Final last season – a feat he achieved at the previously little known Villarreal back in 2005 after controversially beating us over two legs in the qualifier.
We have, of course, experienced great success against City home and away in recent years with just 2 defeats in 12. We’ve tended to compress the middle ground and force City to use the flanks knowing that they prefer to play through the middle. Will the Pellegrini impact destabilise what was previously a Moyes monopoly over Mancini?
Lets delve a little deeper….
Who are the key men for City?
The Citizens have generally struggled against us due to playing too insular and having a lack of pace in wide areas. A lack of a ‘Plan B’ if you like. In Navas they now have this option and he has started each of the home games (but none away from home) so far so would appear a nap to be in the first eleven. His width could give us a problem. Up front, Negredo has been the most productive striker so far this season and having been benched in midweek his chances of starting are high.
Any weak links?
Personnel wise they are pretty solid, but the left side of their defensive unit (probably Nastasic with Kolorov) are much less robust than the right side with Kolorov particularly deficient defensively and Nastasic struggling for form a bit. After the midweek debacle there is even more heat on wobbly keeper Joe Hart, although his clean sheet record is still as good as anyone in the division.
In midfield, Toure and Fernandinho are obviously big talents but both are better going forward than going back. Toure can sometimes be more than a tad idle in this respect and against our midfield trio the duo run the risk of being swamped. The gap between their rather attack minded central midfield duo and the central defensive axis where space tends to open up more is an area we can exploit, and if we can find Barkley in this zone enough times we have a great chance of getting something from the game.
What about set plays? What kind of delivery is the norm and who are the targets?
City are one of the most dangerous sides from set plays in the league given their quality of delivery and the physique of players like Kompany, Toure and Dzeko. They’ve already scored five goals from set plays this season and three from corners in their last two. For free kicks closer to the goal expect Toure to shoot right footed to the keeper’s right. In terms of corners, Nasri has been the regular taker of late with Kompany usually the main target.
Is recent form good?
So far, City’s form has been rather patchy; at home it’s been ruthless with four wins and fifteen goals from their four domestic home games, but on the road they have registered just a solitary point.
Any injuries or selection trends to be aware of?
City don’t have many injury problems to report with David Silva now back in the fold following a few weeks out. Nasri & Dzeko have both played 2 games already this week and I would expect both to be rested for Silva & Negredo. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they recycled their fullbacks too.
Likely Line-up Appraisal
Joe Hart – Hair product endorsing gaming enthusiast and generally out of form keeper. Has struggled making the right decisions when coming for the ball and at times can be left in no man’s land. Has been particularly susceptible to long range pot shots this season with concentration issues perhaps the biggest problem. Since the start of the title winning campaign only Ali Al-Habsi (11) has made more errors leading to a goal than Hart (8). Hanging around with Richard Wright is perhaps having a bigger impact than anyone at City imagined. In terms of distribution he will usually go short to Nastasic, or longer to Negredo.
Pablo Zabaleta – Marauding Argentine who can play across the backline or defensive midfield but who is nicely ensconced at right back. If there’s a weakness to his game it’s that he can get too close to opponents and enable unnecessary free kicks or be dribbled past. Will look to receive further up field and service Navas in front of him and is a great crosser in the final third.
Alexsander Kolorov – Serbian ex Lazio left footed dead ball specialist. Much better aerially than his direct competition Clichy but weaker in transitions and poorer recovery speed. Had an absolute shocker against Coleman at Goodison last season. Better attributes going forward than defensively.
Vincent Kompany – Aggressive right sided centre half and City’s chief organiser at the back. A colossus physically, the Belgian will seek to dominate his opponents. Less adept on the ball and can sometimes lunge in and risk a card. Like Toure he is a real threat from set plays. Can sometimes be dragged out of position either by his own desire to get tight or to cover Zabaleta’s forward surges and if we can get him facing his own goal and break at speed in numbers into this zone we can get some joy.
Matija Nastasic – Great left footed covering defender and the perfect foil for the more aggressive and less comfortable on the ball Kompany. Also solid in the air when required. Will look to start most of City’s attacks from the back with good long range passing. Most prolific defensive fouler in the league thus far and seems to be struggling for form and mental focus.
Yaya Toure – Right footed Ivorian midfield behemoth who can play at 6,8 or 10, and (if required) CB/LB. Will usually receive from Fernandinho and move the ball to David Silva. Often used deeper by Mancini to counter act Fellaini from kick outs in previous games between the clubs. City’s top scorer so far with 4 but looked lethargic against Munich and is susceptible to opponents running down his gulley’s.
Fernandinho – Two footed Brazilian midfield all rounder who won 11 trophies in 8 seasons at the Dombass Arena. Has been deployed more in the anchor role thus far allowing Toure to push on similarly to the way Barry did previously but will still look to get forward. A class act.
David Silva – Fluid and dangerous midfield schemer who specialises in playing out to in. Always shows and comfortable receiving in tight areas and capable of turning and weaving mayhem should we let him .The effort and misery involved in marking him is the football equivalent of a full episode of Piers Morgan’s life stories. Will look for passing combinations with Aguero down the left flank.
Sergio Aguero – Predominantly doesn’t ‘show up’ away from home and is yet to slot against us home or away. On home soil however he is ruthless and City have never lost when he has scored. Possibly. Most dispossessed player in the league so far.
Alvaro Negredo – Left footed prolific Spanish forward who was supposedly the subject of an £11m bid from Everton in the winter transfer window last season. Is very decent in the air and can sniff a goal very well. Has settled into life at City with consummate ease.
Jesus Navas – Right footed winger who provides much needed width in the City team. Has so far had less of an impact than fellow Spanish import Negredo. Will look to receive from Zabaleta and play pull backs to Aguero in our penalty box. Less adept on his left peg so whoever is left midfield for us needs to show him inside and be defensively aware of the Zabaleta overlap, or under lap if Navas hugs the touch line and the Argentine powers through the middle.
Bong Brief: This will be a really difficult test for the Blues and especially given we are likely to be without four ‘first pick’ midfielders in Pienaar, Mirallas, Barry and Gibson. Given our record at City and extra rest up time we have every chance of getting a result, although it will probably require us being at our max and our opponents not being quite at full throttle. With City’s 100% home record and our status as the top flight’s only unbeaten team something has to give, and on current form it’d take a brave punter to bet against this Everton side. Verdict 2-2