Whoever would have believed a day could dawn when Manchester City playing away to Bayern Munich in the Champions League would be considered something of an anti-climax?
Men in white coats would have had you off to the ‘Funny Farm’ faster than you could sing ‘Stuart Pearce’s Blue & White Army’ as you stood on the crumbling Saltergate terraces, with Manchester City tumbling to yet another ignominious cup exit, this time to lowly Chesterfield.
I’ve selected the embarrassing Carling Cup defeat at random – blimey there are so many cup humblings from which to choose – but back in 2006, to even dream of setting foot in Bavaria in combative mode was the stuff to get a City fan institutionalised for a very long time.
Seven years on, it’s permissible, any incarcerated City fan might have hoodwinked a panel of ‘medical experts’ to set them loose back into society, just in time to see the boys in blue go up against the reigning European Champions in their own magnificent Allianz Arena backyard.
But the perverse madness doesn’t end there, having seen the unthinkable become reality. Having earned the right to play the best of the best in the most glamorous of all football competitions, City’s supporters, players and management are focusing on a domestic clash with Arsenal this coming Saturday lunchtime, almost dismissive of the tussle with the teutonic titans.
How bizarre, how utterly bloody bizarre but oh, how so true.
The only glory to be had in freezing Germany would come from something as unlikely as actually playing Bayern Munich in the CL seemed all those years ago – a City win by three clear goals.
Having witnessed the Munich master class so mercilessly inflicted on my beloved blue Mancunians just a few short weeks ago, it simply isn’t going to happen.
So Pellegrini’s pragmatism will win through and City will send out a less than full strength side to try and preserve the club’s honour and dignity in the face of adversity.
With a top of the table Premier League shoot out looming against the Gunners, it’s likely that City’s marksmen Aguero and Negredo will be spared the chilling temperatures, remaining snug as bugs in substitute’s rugs on a warming bench.
The mission to fire City to one of the biggest comebacks in recent Champions League history will fall to a man who seemingly craves a move back to Deutschland – Edin Dzeko.
Reliable sources have it that the unhappy Bosnian wants to leave the Etihad if a decent offer comes in, with Borussia Dortmund reportedly interested in taking him back to the Bundesliga.
Well what better way of showing prospective suitors what their Euros will get them by producing a stellar performance to an audience used to seeing Edin the Great in his Wolfsburg heyday.
Who knows he might come out of his sulk long enough to show his mettle, so as long as he doesn’t trip over his lower lip. OK, that’s a tad harsh, especially when we recall the equaliser that paved the way for the Aguerroooo moment, but bloody hell, how many chances does a guy need to prove his worth?
All the talk about him being a ‘confidence’ player…what a load of baloney – his mental toughness must be as fragile as an ostrich egg attached to a jackhammer!
It isn’t going to happen, but why can’t Pellegrini find some minutes for the likes of John Guidetti and Marcos Lopes, City’s young guns who have no fear, and just tell them to go out and have some fun.
It has to be better than Dzeko going out with a face like my backside – something best kept out of sight!
One player who does deserve recognition is England’s number one goalkeeper, Joe Hart who, since being punished for his mistakes at October’s end, has produced two excellent displays for club and country.
No sulking, no brooding, you just get a sense that Joe is aching to get back in and prove all his doubters wrong. There are plenty of City fans who are happy for Costel Pantilimon to continue in goal, but Joe IS A SUPERIOR keeper and it’s time for Manuel to stop playing silly buggers.
Admittedly,Pants has done nothing wrong since being promoted to the first team and I don’t delude myself that Pellegrini will select Joe for the Arsenal match up, but a convincing display from Joe will put any self-respecting City fan in good heart, irrespective of the outcome.
David Silva should see some action – even if only as a substitute – after his enforced lay-off, but enough to knock the cobwebs off to have him in contention as a starter for the weekend.
Samir Nasri has well and truly stepped up to the plate in Merlin’s absence, evidenced by the new warmth extended to him by the Etihad faithful, but an in-form Silva will always surpass the Frenchman.
City’s midfield will need reshaping after Yaya’s most ‘unfortunate’ booking against Plzen in City’s 4-2 home win.
Certainly, most definitely no comparisons with good old DJ Campbell, but if ever a man wanted to ensure he was available for the knockout stages of the Champions League it was Yaya. He achieved his objective so good on you Yaya!
With every result contributing to the ‘co-efficients’ that dictate a team’s standing in the overall European rankings, City will still want to achieve the best outcome in the circumstances.
On that basis it is likely the likes of Richards and Rodwell could be drafted in as replacements for Zabaleta and Yaya.
Demichelis is likely to be preferred ahead of the more deserving Lescott. He’s Manuel’s man, plus there’s the sentimentalism of going back to Bayern, the scene of his most glorious playing days.
Javi Garcia – the £16m man we were told could do everything that Nigel De Jong did and in addition, could play an outstanding forward pass and head the ball – will probably get a run out.
Whoever convinced Ferran Soriano, Txiki Begiristain or Roberto Mancini that the above statement was in any part true, should be the subject of a global Interpol warrant for fraud. A firing squad would be too lenient a punishment for talking double dutch…a single Dutch would serve City far better than the insipid Spaniard.
At the very least City fans can sit back prepared for the worst but hoping for the best, safe in the knowledge that their team is in the Last Sixteen draw in Nyon on Friday 13th.
Having avoided the Group of Death will Pellegrini & Co be feeling lucky with the prospect of either of the Madrid clubs, Barcelona or PSG as likely opponents next February?
This report is dedicated to the memory of a true MCFC BLUE Mikey White White White who left us for the Sky Blue Heavens a year ago today. You keep on watching fella and we’ll keep on winning. RIP Mike White
By David Walker