City lifeline disappearing as Jose eyes Lisbon not Liverpool – MAN CITY 3 WBA 1

In the world of the after match football interview, the word ‘character’ is used and abused more than most.

Managers and players willingly trot out the word e.g. ‘…the team showed real character…’, simply because they rallied to earn a draw, who knows, maybe even a win, in the face of adversity.

Character building - Martin Demichelis has weathered a storm of criticism this season and was rightly acclaimed Man of the Match. Courtesy @MCFC

Character building – Martin Demichelis has weathered a storm of criticism this season and was rightly acclaimed Man of the Match. Courtesy @MCFC

Whichever, it’s cue cliché corner and more ‘characters’ than a Walt Disney Parade.

Character be blowed – it’s called doing the job – a job for which players and the managers in the Premier League are handsomely remunerated and rewarded.

For all the misuse of the word, Manchester City are going to have to summon up a combination of  virtuous and distinguishing features and show their mettle, if they are to stand even the remotest chance of reeling in Liverpool’s six point lead.

It's a celebration - will City still be in buoyant mood on Sunday evening? Courtesy @MCFC

It’s a celebration – will City still be in buoyant mood on Sunday evening? Courtesy @MCFC

Manuel Pellegrini’s team clawed back three points on the leaders, courtesy of a pretty routine victory over a WBA who, although fighting for Premier League survival, weren’t able to summon up a second shock within a week at the Etihad.

Rock bottom Sunderland had deprived City of two vital points, courtesy of a 2-2 draw last Wednesday night, but Albion – thankfully – weren’t made of the same stuff.

Winning was as easy as one, two ,three or, given the goalscorers – uno, dos, tress – as Zabaleta, Aguero and Demichelis produced what must be a Premier League first, a trio of sequential scores netted by different Argentines.

Uno, Dos, Tress - it's as easy as an Argentine 1,2,3. Courtesy @MCFC

Uno, Dos, Tress – it’s as easy as an Argentine 1,2,3. Courtesy @MCFC

But for all their South American class, all three City strikes were overshadowed by a goal that would have sat well in the portfolio of the greatest Argentinian player of all time, Diego Maradona.

Graham Dorran’s 16th minute pearl was as classy a goal as will be seen at the Etihad this season. The Albion defensive midfielder looked more like a Brazilian forward as he took two deft touches, before hammering a half volley beyond Joe Hart to make it 2-1.

It was as bizarre as it was brilliant, stemming from a comedic cock-up of a City free kick. Within seconds of the Baggies gaining possession, the marauding Sessegnon swarmed up field, laid the ball off to Vydra who squared the ball to Dorrans and Albion were back in the match.

Hail Zaba - Pablo and City are praying that Liverpool drop three points. Courtesy @MCFC

Hail Zaba – Pablo and City are praying that Liverpool drop three points. Courtesy @MCFC

Having raced into a comfortable 2-0 lead  within nine minutes, courtesy of Zaba’s instinctive third minute header and a well executed 20 yard ground shot from Sergio, City were poised to polish up their goals haul, just in case the PL title comes down to goal difference on 11 May.

The optimism was suddenly – and thankfully only temporarily – dimmed by the Baggies’ goal, as visions of the apology of a performance against Sunderland flashed back into focus.

Any failure to win would render City’s title challenge impotent, but this time the boys in blue found a steely resolve to get the job done.

Zaba daba did - Sergio proclaims Pablo's opening goal. Courtesy @MCFC

Zaba daba did – Sergio proclaims Pablo’s opening goal. Courtesy @MCFC

So often the butt of criticism, some of it warranted, but some of it not, Martin Demichelis has visibly grown in stature since Vincent Kompany was sent-off at Hull in mid-March.

The pony-tailed one stepped up from a follower to leader in the 2-0 win at the KC Stadium, marshalling ‘his’ backline, aided and abetted by Javi Garcia, another who has attracted a lot of adverse comment since joining City in August 2012.

Previously labelled ‘misfits’, both have come to prominence and were vying for the Man of The Match laurels as time ticked down on this comfortable 3-1 win.

Star man - Demichelis scored his second goal for City. Courtesy @MCFC

Star man – Demichelis scored his second goal for City. Courtesy @MCFC

Can you imagine the tsunami of criticism that would have hit MDM if it had been him, and not Kompany, who had gifted Liverpool’s winner at Anfield?

David Silva, the man who must surely be neck and neck with Yaya Toure as City’s Player of the Year, was stretchered off midway through the second half.

Silva has arguably shown himself to be the single most important member of City’s First XI this season, with his influence transcending that of Kompany, Yaya and Aguero.

No Silva lining - Merlin's ankle injury could yet prove season ending with just four games remaining. Courtesy @MCFC

No Silva lining – Merlin’s ankle injury could yet prove season ending with just four games remaining. Courtesy @MCFC

The loss of the Spanish creative genius for what is said to be two-to-three weeks (does that actually equate to season-ending from City’s perspective?) is a crushing blow, especially in tandem with Yaya still missing.

Merlin has nursed his fragile ankle(s) through many a campaign, but this season above all others, he seems to have been targeted by opponents i.e. stop Silva & you go a long way to stopping City per se.

If that maxim carries weight then Manuel Pellegrini is going to have find a ‘work-around’ pretty damn fast.

'Sergical' strike - Aguero rediscovered his scoring boots. Courtesy @MCFC

‘Sergical’ strike – Aguero rediscovered his scoring boots. Courtesy @MCFC

Stevan Jovetic may provide the most viable option at this late stage of a season which has seen City look increasingly lackadaisical in games that were just waiting to be won.

From the outside looking in it’s difficult to know the mindset, physical conditioning and well-being of the players, save to say the energy levels seem to have waned.

It may be that Pellegrini’s preferred style of attractive, expansive and high octane football has taken its toll over a long and gruelling campaign.

Lionheart - Zaba always gives 100% and that's why the City fans adore him. Courtesy @MCFC

Lionheart – Zaba always gives 100% and that’s why the City fans adore him. Courtesy @MCFC

All the talk about City’s large squad (for the record it tops out at 25 players, the same as every other Premier League club) Pellegrini has only utilised 23 players over the season.

It would be doing the manager a disservice not to mention his star striker, Sergio, has missed literally half a season and Kompany, Silva, Nasri, Nastasic and Jovetic have also been ruled out for long periods at-a-time.

Irrespective of the rationale behind the malaise that has seen City drop off from a high intensity pressing game – especially when not in possession – it’s something that has to addressed and rectified for the last 360+ minutes of the season.

It might also help if kit manager Les Chapman, packs some tin hats for the visit to Crystal Palace.

Palace battering - Joe Hart displays the battle wounds from City's home encounter with Crystal Palace last December. Courtesy @MCFC

Palace battering – Joe Hart displays the battle wounds from City’s home encounter with Crystal Palace last December. Courtesy @MCFC

Rejuvenated under manager Tony Pulis, Palace are – along with Liverpool – the form side at present with five wins from their last five PL games, including a home win over Chelsea and an away victory at Everton.

City couldn’t manage the former and face the toughest of tasks on 3 May attempting the latter.

With so much hype and City hopes resting on Liverpool dropping points against Chelsea, it could yet be that the crowning of the champions could be determined by events at the Palace, with Liverpool the next visitors after City.

Dig in - Pellegrini's men need a dozen points and a Liverpool slip-up. Courtesy @MCFC

Dig in – Pellegrini’s men need a dozen points and a Liverpool slip-up. Courtesy @MCFC

Mourinho’s focus will be on the UCL semi-final 2nd leg against Atletico Madrid and, for that reason, he will more than likely put out an under strength side at Anfield on Sunday.

Petr Cech and John Terry incurred season ending injuries in Madrid last night, while Eden Hazard is unlikely to be risked before Atletico go to Stamford Bridge next week.

Understandably, Mourinho knows he has great chance of winning the Champions League for a third time and making history by doing so with three different clubs.

What had been billed as a potential blue salvation line for City at Anfield has all but disappeared.

No favours - a weakened Chelsea won't help City's cause at Anfield this weekend. Courtesy @MCFC

No favours – a weakened Chelsea won’t help City’s cause at Anfield this weekend. Courtesy @MCFC

How ironic if it were to be Tony Pulis, the man who loves to hate City, who damages Liverpool in City’s favour.

With such a tangled web it’ll be interesting to see how the central characters in the PL soap opera emerge in the next few days.

City can dig as deep as they like in summoning up the mental and physical strength to record a ninth away win and edge closer to 100 PL goals scored.

It’ll count for nothing if Chelsea, with their eyes on the Champions League Final in Lisbon, concede to Liverpool before a ball is kicked.

 

#TrustOurMP

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com

@djwskyblu

 

 

22 Comments

  1. April 23, 2014  8:59 am by Rafa the Gaffer Reply

    Moaninho's mind games. With the squad Chelsea have, whatever team he picks will be strong. He probably won't risk players who are not 100% fit, which is only right, but both Lampard and Mikel are suspended from the CL second leg, so are a shoe-in for Sunday. Luiz will probably drop to CB to cover for Terry, unless as usual he makes a miraculous recovery. All teams rotate their squad throughout the season if they need to. Saying all that, I hope they come to Anfield and play the U-8's team :-)

    • April 23, 2014  12:34 pm by David Walker Reply

      Fair to say you won't be rooting for City for the title! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. April 23, 2014  10:28 am by Graham Ward Reply

    We eased off in the latter part of the second half, content with what we had, which I thought was fair enough, although Nasri and Dzeko both had good chances to add to the tally.
    If Mourinho wants to play a weakened side at Anfield, then that's his choice, but, on the evidence of last night, he's not going to make the Final, if Chelsea make it, a spectacle, is he?
    It would be highly ironic if they go out on away goals to Atletico, which I think is the most likely scenario.
    Pulis and Palace will give us a tougher ride than Liverpool, irrespective of what the situation is.

    • April 23, 2014  10:46 am by David Walker Reply

      Totally agree Graham - it makes you wonder about the professionalism of some teams & conscious or sub-conscious favouritism towards others.

  3. April 23, 2014  1:07 pm by Nev Artingstall Reply

    Maybe I'm feeling a bit pessimistic today but I can't see us picking up 6 points in the next 2 away games. I also think Liverpool will beat Maureen's reserve side meaning they won't have to beat Palace. Hope I'm wrong David but all these scenarios are reliant on us winning our last 4 games which I just can't see us doing. Maybe I'll get of bed the other side tomorrow and feel more optimistic. One question I got asked yesterday. If you had to drop a CB who would it be? Dare I say it would have to be VK on present form.
    Great read again. CTID

    • April 23, 2014  1:43 pm by David Walker Reply

      Sadly I share your perspective Nev - I just think we lack mental toughness & even physical robustness at present. As for dropping CBs, we're not exactly spoilt for choice in the first place. Dodging the question entirely, I think Mangala is on his way from Porto, Rekik could return from PSV & Nastasic will hopefully get over this mystery knee problem & give us some stronger options next season.

  4. April 23, 2014  1:11 pm by Simon Dear Reply

    Listening to the old City theme thumping out of load speakers before the game against the Baghies had my heart telling me City can still do this , however the miracles of 13/5/12 dont happen often and if we did it from here even that spectacle might be surpassed. Thats why my head says it will probably be done and dusted with the Sunday roast tats, we can look at other teams like Chelsea and try to find excuses but the blunt truth is they beat us twice bagged 6 pts and owe us nowt, squat , diddly , nish , nil pois.
    Maybe Chelsea can get a draw , but what good is that to them, whatever the result we must focus and beat another form team in Palace , this I fear is the problem, without Silvas craft and Aguero still not quite there yet , despite his clear improvement the other night , it will take a massive effort to pull this one off.
    And then if we do ... It's Pullis to the rescue on week later , I just can't see it can you ?
    Liverpool will be deserved Champions this season, and although its too early to start sifting through the debris of our EPL campaign, for me MP didn't take the lesser teams serious enough away in the early part of the season.
    Cardiff , Villa and Sunderland followed up by a shocker of a defensive error at Stamford bridge, and a tactical calamity at home in the return fixture is what cost us .
    Mr Neville ( who is suprisingly a great Sky pundit by the way ) is correct in saying that City should win the league , lets hope next season MP has learned these valuable lessons from what has still been a memorable first season at the helm.
    We must fight to the end .....

    • April 23, 2014  1:53 pm by David Walker Reply

      Agreed - I think we've left it too late & there's a momentum with. Liverpool that has bitten us on the backside. I'm a staunch supporter of MP & definitely want to see what he can achieve in his second year. Nonetheless it leaves me disappointed about 2013/14

  5. April 23, 2014  1:18 pm by Bill Glas Reply

    It looks, as you say, that we cannot rely on Chelsea to take points off Liverpool for us. City did a good job against the baggies, but the odds are stacked against us with Yaya and David out. MP has to think of something good to deal with QPR and Everton. Maybe he can surprise us?!
    Enjoying the City goals v West Brom was one thing, but I'm glad I wasn't the only one who thought that Dorrans' goal was a real piece of class footy.

    • April 23, 2014  1:56 pm by David Walker Reply

      I'd say the title has gone but we stillhave to play with belief & be ready to capitalise on any errors, if, as and when they might occur.

      • April 23, 2014  4:19 pm by Bill Glas Reply

        Correction: Crystal Palace not QPR. Dohh!

  6. April 23, 2014  2:03 pm by carol Reply

    we're gonna miss Spanish Dave for sure, more so than Yaya in my opinion since Yaya only turns up when he feels like it! As long as we fight to the end I dont mind, its when we give up before we start that I get cross. Oh and MDM needs a hair cut...thats all

    • April 23, 2014  5:53 pm by David Walker Reply

      Get your hedge cutters, come out from behind the settee and we'll introduce you to MDM MOTM. I agree with Silva, Yaya and fighting sentiments. Cheers Blondie.

  7. April 23, 2014  5:13 pm by Pete Lynch Reply

    We are man city, we fight till the end! Miracles do happen. Aguerooooooooooooo!!!!!!

  8. April 23, 2014  6:14 pm by guy Burke Reply

    If one coach could pull off a result at anfield on Sunday it would be Maureen? He absolutely hates Liverpool with a passion and still remembers getting robbed in the champions league sf a few years back . City ko at palace knowing the Chelsea result? Till it is mathematically impossible to win the league i refuse to give in !! Remember to chant "we love Maureen" !

    • April 23, 2014  7:32 pm by David Walker Reply

      I know Boycie's wife in Only Fools & Horses was called Marlene but I always hear his voice whenever I see a reference to 'Maureen'! ;-)

  9. April 23, 2014  6:47 pm by DOUGLAS HENSHAW Reply

    All we can do now is try to win the remaining games & see where it takes us.Spanish Dave will be a big miss hes been outstanding for us hopefully Yaya will return but I just feel its too late I think were playing for 2nd place now for what ever reason we aren't the swashbuckling that swept all before us injurys & loss of form to to many players has cost us. In Chelseas postion I honstly think I would want City to do the same & plsy a weakend side I did hear that Chelsea asked for the game to be moved but Liverpool wouldnt agree. Great read again Dave win lose or draw I so look forward to my Read But Never Red.

    • April 23, 2014  7:38 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Doug. I actually have sympathy for Chelsea (believe it or not) because the Premier League could easily have said to Sky let's move this. If Chelsea win the UCL it mean's England's co-efficient is improved and we maintain 4 places in the UCL as a country. If at any stage the English clubs perform so badly, we could see our allocation cut to 3. That means less UCL for Sky to broadcast involving English teams. It ain't rocket science but Sky and BT call all the bloody shots #bastards. As for City I don't want to torture myself with dreams of eclipsing Liverpool. If it happens...WOW!

  10. April 24, 2014  2:59 am by Jim Land Reply

    I agree with a lot of what's been said above about our title chances with one exception: ".... however the miracles of 13/5/12 don't happen often and if we did it from here even that spectacle might be surpassed."
    Sorry, but that's bollocks mate. NOTHING in football will ever be surpass that. Winning with virtually the last kick of the season to take the title from arch-rivals - on goal difference, most of which was accrued in the 1-6 at theirs - will never be beaten; especially when you add in the faces of United players at Sunderland!

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