From Barcelona to Hull – it’s a cultural shift of seismic proportions – but Manchester City must retain their focus …win the game and stride on to become champions.
It’ll be at least another 15 months before City can fulfil their Champions League ‘Holy Grail’, but only 12 games to see if they can be crowned Champions of England, for the second time in three years.
City’s inspirational leader Vincent Kompany claimed City ‘had nothing left in the tank…’ after their gallant but, nonetheless, disappointing defeat at the Nou Camp on Wednesday night.
If the sky blues haven’t refuelled and aren’t raring to go in East Yorkshire by lunch time today, they could be savaged by a club who could claim to have a ‘Tiger in their tank…’ if a petrol advertising slogan from 1960s is anything to go by!
A wretched FA Cup quarter final defeat at home to Wigan means City will not be contesting any more matches at Wembley this season, but just ignore the location…Manuel Pellegrini’s side have a dozen ‘cup finals’ ahead of them before May 11th.
Languishing nine points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea, but with three games in hand, it is nonetheless difficult, for City to apply the pressure on Jose Mourinho’s side at present.
Quite simply there is no margin for error. City presently control their own fate – win the last 12 games and they’ll be champions. Who knows it could yet come down to goal difference!
Pessimistically, fatigue and injuries could be the undoing of City as they head into the final phase of the season. Pellegrini has been unlucky in that he has lost key players at vital moments. Kompany, Silva and, above all Aguero, now in to his third enforced absence, among them.
Stevan Jovetic has endured, rather than enjoyed his debut term in sky blue. Once again, the lively and talented Montenegrin is unavailable for selection today, along with Sergio, Matija Nastasic and the powerful, yet porcelain vase-like Micah Richards…talk about fragile!
Whereas Mourinho bemoans a lack of strikers on his books, he often has more fit ones at his disposal than Pellegrini.
When it comes to deadly marksmen, City’s have been compared to Oscar Pistorius after exiting the Champions League.. they lost both legs but still managed four shots on target.
Closer to Pellegrini’s thinking today, will be Hull’s recently imported duo of Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic. The January signings from WBA and Everton will be fresh after being FA Cup-tied last weekend, when Steve Bruce’s men booked a semi final trip to Wembley.
Historically Hull is not a happy hunting ground for City, winning just once in the league and that was none-too-recently…1909 to be precise. Fast forward to the present day and a healthy run of seven Premier League away games without defeat – five wins and two draws – and there are grounds for optimism.
Added to that is Hull’s poor home form, with just one win in seven, and all of a sudden there are reasons to be cheerful. The doom and gloom of a horrible week for City could be jettisoned before Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal kick-off over the weekend.
It’s a month to the day since goals from Jovetic and Nasri saw City destroy Mourinho’s much vaunted men in the FA Cup. Since then City have also won the League Cup, so a positive perspective is required.
The ‘Special Needs One’ has the advantage because City last played a Premier League game 21 days ago – that remains the only reason.
Pellegrini has 12 games to confound all of the snide snipers in the media and deliver City’s best ever season. They’ve never been champions and won a domestic cup in the same season. It would eclipse Mercer & Allison, as well as Mancini.
How sumptuous would that be?
No doubt, it’s a big ask to win a dozen on the trot, especially with Arsenal and Liverpool away fixtures, but that requirement is solely on the premise that Chelsea will grind out nine wins.
‘Maureen’ has still to take Chelsea to the red half of Merseyside, with Liverpool still fancying their chances of pipping both the royal blues and sky blues to the title.
Today is a day when the likes of Yaya Toure cannot – simply cannot – go missing in action.
The Ivorian is singled out because if he ‘doesn’t fancy it’ it shows, and he does have ‘previous’.
The frustration is that he, above all others, has the world class ability to take the game by the scruff of the neck and drive City onto three vital points.
He should listen to his skipper when Vincent Kompany says the pain of two cup exits will motivate City to their second PL title in three years.
It might be doing City a favour as well if Pellegrini takes heed of the overwhelming consensus when it comes to the Pony Tail – Martin Demichelis.
It’s often ill-conceived to highlight the faults of individuals when a team either wins or loses as a team – but there are exceptions and MDM qualifies.
The veteran Argentine is an ill-fitting piece in City’s problem position alongside Kompany. Joleon Lescott, by no means the long term ‘solution’, is a better bet as a tried and tested PL winning centre back.
It’s a 12-game season from lunchtime today and Lescott knows how this league works. It may not sit easily with Pellegrini’s vision of a supremely confident defender, who is at ease and comfortable bringing the ball up field, but needs must.
‘Demichaos’ has shown himself more a liability than an asset on too many occasions. I for one would cast doubts on my own #TrustOurMP slogan if he lines up against a big traditional striker like Long.
A win today will re-energise a team which is flagging under the perceived weight of failure, but City’s destiny remains within their own control.
It’s time for action and time to make Mourinho’s jibber jabber count for its true worth…NOTHING.
By David Walker