Manchester City’s much anticipated midweek gastronomic delight at European football’s top table left a nasty bout of lingering indigestion.
What should have been a taste bud tingling excursion into haute cuisine was ruined by a decidedly sour swede and news that the caviar and champagne had been cancelled.
So-called experts of football fayre claim the menu was a little too rich for City, that Manuel Pellegrini and his team were always liable to choke if Barcelona brought their own special ingredients to the party.
Well, revenge is either a dish best served cold, and/or, in the shape of roaring success, and who’s to say City won’t be dining out at the Nou Camp on gazpacho followed by lobster salad and chilled dessert on March 12?
Any fruitful foraging in Catalonia would stick in the craw of the putrid pundits, who revel in the belief that Pellegrini’s paella is already well and truly cooked.
Closer to home it’s more like fish n’ chips and bread & butter as Stoke City roll up to the Etihad edibiles counter for a more traditional offering of Premier League subsistence.
Putting the Holy Grail of the Champions League to one side, City are well set for a domestic three-course menu of League, Capital One Cup and FA Cup…but they can’t afford any hiccups today.
Beating the likes of Mark Hughes’ pugilists from the Potteries is vital if City are to press on with their ambitions to become champions of England once again.
It’s no good some of City big-name players craving the stage of the Champions League if they aren’t prepared to mix it up with the likes of Norwich away and Stoke at home.
City cannot afford any kind of hangover from Tuesday night’s 2-0 reversal to a Swedish led Barcelona side, as they strive to close the three point gap on Chelsea.
Doubtless some of the heroic Sky Blues were out on their feet after battling with 10-men against Barca for 40 minutes, but it’s time to rev up the engine and get Manuel’s
slick Manchester machine purring once again.
Sergio Aguero will be missing his fifth game as he puts the finishing touches to his hamstring recovery, in time for next week’s Wembley showpiece with Sunderland.
Pellegrini’s centre back options are limited by the ongoing absence of Matija Nastasic, but other than that he has a full squad at his disposal.
After two substitute appearances, both of where he noticeably injected pace and flair into the proceedings, Samir Nasri should start today. An in form James Milner, suspended on Tuesday night, could also return offering a fresh pair of legs and hearty set of lungs.
Javi Garcia has suddenly alerted City fans to the fact that he can be a more than decent holding midfielder, after his superb display against Chelsea in the FA Cup. He is an option against the rough and tumble approach of a Stoke team, supposedly playing a more cultured style after the sacking of the Neanderthal Tony Pulis and appointment of ex-City boss Hughes.
When Charlie Adams is hailed as a team’s ‘elegant playmaker’ it speaks volumes!
Captain Fantastic Vincent Kompany suffered a hamstring strain against Barcelona but is apparently deemed fit for duty.
God forbid anything befalls the ‘Belgian Boulder’ between now and season’s end. City are vulnerable enough at centre back as it is. His loss would be nothing short of catastrophic.
Pellegrini showed his undoubted tactical acumen against the Spanish champions, despite what the anti-City media would have you believe in the wake of the defeat.
Up until Messi scored from the penalty spot, Barcelona had posed very little threat to City’s goal. A solitary long range strike from Xavi was the sum total of Joe Hart being tested.
Had the Turnip from north of Stockholm (that’s referee Jonas Eriksson for the unenlightened) awarded a free kick to City for a Sergio Busquets foul of Jesus Navas, Martin Demichelis would have stayed on the field and the penalty that never was, would not have happened.
There’s every expectation that City will revert to their default setting of attack, attack and attack again at three o’clock today.
David Silva was outstanding against his countrymen on Tuesday – the best player on the park, closely followed by Kompany – totally outshining Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Neymar etc.
It’s easy to see why rumours abound that the Nou Camp money men covet ‘Merlin’ and might make a move for him this summer.
City obviously have the financial muscle to ward off any interest and the Spanish tax authorities have the appetite to scutinise any Barcelona transfer dealings in light of the dubious deal for Neymar. It could get interesting.
Silva is City’s gold standard in the midst of a season where the club could conceivably surpass the past glories achieved by Mancini, Mercer and Allison.
A second PL title accompanied by one, or even two, domestic cups would constitute City’s single most successful season. It would shut up the shysters who besmirch Pellegrini’s managerial track record.
The verbal diarrhoea gibbering of, ‘He’s never won anything in Europe…’ is truly tiresome. Pellegrini has only ever had one realistic crack at La Liga glory when he managed Real Madrid for a solitary campaign.
He amassed a record 96 point haul for Los Blancos, missing the title by three points to a Pep Guardiola inspired Barcelona who were in their prime…yes, abject failure – NOT.
Apparently, according to Her Majesty’s Football Press, Pellegrini is cracking under the strain, can’t take the pressure etc. The evidence is so obviously overwhelming…he spoke out against an idiot referee who helped package a Barcelona win better than any IKEA collection point!
With Chelsea playing Everton in the lunchtime kick off, City are unlikely to get back to the PL summit tonight, but a 12th home win will keep them in touch with Maureen’s bunch, with an all-important game in hand.
A sixth consecutive 3-0 PL home win over Stoke would be a perfect outcome today, and give those who love to undermine Manchester City’s rise to prominence something to chew on!
By David Walker
SPECIAL FUNDRAISING APPEAL £100,000…
READ BUT NEVER RED is delighted to show its support for Wythenshawe AFC who are one of seven finalists competing for a £100,000 supergrant from Budweiser to improve the facilities at the club.
It is the only competitor from the North West region and both Manchester City and the Trafford Troglodytes (sorry that should read Manchester United) are backing the club.
On this rare occasion it does not matter if you’re Sky Blue or a Red – it is for the betterment of a local club in Manchester and the associated community. Please view the attachments to see more about the funding and PLEASE VOTE FOR WYTHENSHAWE AFC TODAY! Voting closes next Friday 28th February. Representatives of Wythenshawe AFC will be at the Etihad today seeking signatures and your support so PLEASE VOTE FOR WYTHENSHAWE and bring 100,000 smiles to a great community!