Manchester City embark on their first domestic cup campaign of the season against Wednesday on a Wednesday, conscious of the need to win and avoid a ‘mourn day’ Thursday.
Manuel Pellegrini’s mantra of wanting to win every competition City enter is laudable, especially when so many Premier League managers are all too quick to send out a starting XI of fringe and youth team players.
The very last thing the Chilean boss wants to see is City’s trophy cabinet emptying, at a time when they need to get back to winning ways and hold on to last season’s capital gains.
A Sheffield Wednesday side riding high in the Championship and egged on by a parliament of owls, with 6,000 ‘Yorkies’ making the trans-Pennine trek, have nothing to lose.
Perched just three points off the top of the table, Stuart Gray’s team have lost just one of 10 competitive matches this season, including knocking out Premier League new boys, Burnley, in the previous round.
City will however, make changes to the team that took on Chelsea, with three of them enforced. Fernando is still missing with a groin problem, as is Jovetic with a hamstring injury, but Aguero, Nasri and Silva will also be absent nursing knocks.
Pellegrini will presumably take the opportunity to keep Hart, Kompany and Yaya fresh for City’s encounter with Yorkshire’s top team – Hull City – on Saturday.
Whether he will run the risk of playing Boyata and Nastasic is debateable, when he could try out a new centre back combination of Mangala and Demichelis. Sagna will play in place of Zabaleta – the unlucky Argentine warrior suspended for his second cup tie inside a week.
In truth the 3rd round Capital One Cup tie has done City a favour and ensured Zaba is available for the Hull fixture. Clichy should complete the back four.
Zaba’s countryman, Willy Caballero, will make his competitive debut in place of Hart.
Kolarov could find himself in a more advanced slot on the left in a five man midfield comprising ‘Super Frankie’ Lampard, Fernandino, James Milner and Jesus Navas.
Edin Dzeko may be forced to play as a lone striker, simply because Aguero and Jovetic are unavailable and The Beast has long since departed, along with his fractured metatarsal. Negredo wouldn’t have played until the end of next month at the earliest.
Scott Sinclair might figure at some stage and it could mean the elite of City’s Elite Development Squad, youngsters of the calibre of striker Jose Angel Pozo, making it to the bench.
With Capital Cup shocks galore this season – Arsenal, Everton and Manchester United – (sorry make that just the two shocks, the MK Dons were always going to thrash Louis’ Gaalacticos) – City run the risk of going the same way if the motivation levels aren’t right.
Rewind to the home defeat by massively unfancied Wigan in the FA Cup Quarter Finals, to witness what happens when complacency creeps in.
It’s now one day shy of a month since City last won when they beat Liverpool 3-1. Two draws and two 1-0 defeats have followed, so a win against Wednesday would break the cycle and, more importantly, allow City to maintain their grip on Pellegrini’s first trophy in the English game.
By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu