Could Mourinho throw Pellegrini a title lifeline? – MAN CITY v WBA

It would be a perverse irony if Manuel Pellegrini’s nemesis became his saviour, albeit by proxy.

It’s only two letters, but ‘if’ is a word with wide ranging and far reaching consequences, especially in relation to the Premier League title tussle, one of the most intriguing for many a year.

Jose sunshine - Could Mourinho help Pellegrini weather adversity and help City win the PL title? Courtesy @MCFC

Jose sunshine – Could Mourinho help Pellegrini weather adversity and help City win the PL title? Courtesy @MCFC

If Jose Mourinho can breach the Anfield fortress of the nearly ordained champions-elect, and if Manchester City can emerge with maximum points from games with WBA and Crystal Palace, then Pellegrini will once again have City’s destiny in his grasp.

He and his lack lustre side allowed it to slip away less than a week ago with a ‘disastrous’ 2-2 draw with rock bottom Sunderland. How the press and pundits laughed at ‘moneybags’ City and how they revelled in the discomfort of the sky blues.

The Mourinho-fawning media were singing a different tune after the relegation ‘certainties’ from Wearside inflicted Jose’s first ever Premier League home defeat on Saturday evening.

Down but not out - City dropped points last week against Sunderland but their title challenge is not over just yet. Courtesy @MCFC

Down but not out – City dropped points last week against Sunderland but their title challenge is not over just yet. Courtesy @MCFC

Never mind Lazarus or ‘JC’ himself over Easter, Sunderland were defying the odds and resurrecting their once seemingly hopeless fight for PL survival, and with it the title dreams of Manchester City.

Pellegrini has shown himself to be statesmanlike in not rising to the bait so often dangled by Mourinho. Quite why the Chelsea manager feels the need to perpetuate his adolescent behaviour and snide comments towards the City boss, only he knows.

There’s bad blood between the pair, but surely it wouldn’t preclude the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ or, as Mourinho restyled it, at the start the season, the ‘Happy One’, trying to bridge a five point deficit between Chelsea and Liverpool… even if Pellegrini stood to be the main beneficiary.

Tactically, Mourinho has few betters, so if you had to put your money on a team to stifle an attacking flow that resembles the Mersey in full flood, it would be Jose.

Catch up - Will Steven Gerrard and Liverpool buckle under the weight of expectation? Courtesy @MCFC

Catch up – Will Steven Gerrard and Liverpool buckle under the weight of expectation? Courtesy @MCFC

There’s an adage that ‘things’ come in threes, hopefully it applies to the PL title run-in; City pegged back by Sunderland, Chelsea sunk by Sunderland so who’s to say Liverpool cannot contribute with a loss to Chelsea or coming a cropper at Crystal Palace?

If – there it is again – if, momentum were to unexpectedly swing back to City (doubtful as it seems) woe betide if they slipped up a second time.

We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves wondering if the Scousers might falter, it’ll count for nothing if City can’t get 15 points from their remaining five games – a feat by no means certain.

Acclaimed - Dzeko takes the plaudits after scoring City's winner over Palace last December. Courtesy @MCFC

Acclaimed – Dzeko takes the plaudits after scoring City’s winner over Palace last December. Courtesy @MCFC

Tony Pulis has performed a Harry Houdini act at Selhurst Park and the Palace boss would love to finally sink City’s title aspirations. He loathes and detests City after suffering Wembley woes with his former clubs Gillingham – in the 1999 Second Division Play-Off Final – and with Stoke in the 2011 FA Cup Final.

He spits out his bile and venom whenever he’s interviewed about City, always referencing City’s Abu Dhabi financial backing.

After losing 1-0 at the Etihad in late December he said he’d just sit on the sidelines ‘smoking a big cigar…’ if he was City’s manager, the pernicious inference being that on-field success would be easily bought.

And if, six points are harvested before the end of the month, City then face their perennial bogey fixture – Everton at Goodison Park – with Roberto Martinez’s team eyeing the prize of a Champions League finish.

Rare double - Six points off Everton in one season would be a Godsend for City this time out. Courtesy @MCFC

Rare double – Six points off Everton in one season would be a Godsend for City this time out. Courtesy @MCFC

Amid some ridiculous calls for Pellegrini to be fired in the wake of the Sunderland disappointment – incidentally did anybody see or hear any media speculation about Mourinho’s future after he LOST, not drew, but LOST to the The Mackems – there has been, what many consider, legitimate criticism of the Chilean.

Some view his insistence on playing attacking football, irrespective of the opposition or the venue, as naive, stubborn or just not tactically savvy. Accusations persist that Pellegrini still underestimates, what might be perceived as ‘lesser’ teams e.g. Wigan in the FA Cup QF and Sunderland in the league.

Head in hands - City must not underestimate their opponents - it's already cost them dear this season  Courtesy @MCFC

Head in hands – City must not underestimate their opponents – it’s already cost them dear this season Courtesy @MCFC

Fair or unfair, Pellegrini has to step up and ensure that belief courses through the veins of every City player.

He said his players were mentally exhausted after the Liverpool game, hence the below par performance in only narrowly avoiding defeat to a Sunderland side, thoroughly deserving of the draw.

The City squad is stacked with talent, some of it ‘world class’ and they’re all professional footballers. The key word here is professional.

It goes with the job description and ought to mean that the players are fully engaged in the workplace, and are willing and able to apply 100% effort and commitment at all times in seeking to achieve the objectives of their employers.

100% - Zabaleta is a City legend for his achievements and all-out efforts.

100% – Zabaleta is a City legend for his achievements and all-out efforts.

Any repeat of the lethargy, as witnessed at the Sunderland game, will not be tolerated against an Albion side embroiled in a relegation dogfight.

Jesus Navas is a likely absentee with an ankle injury, whereas Yaya Toure and Matija Nastasic are definite non-starters. The big Bank Holiday bonus looks the likely return of the man who conducts City’s orchestra – David Silva. He was desperately missed against Sunderland and has to be the main contender with Yaya as City’s player of the season.

 If it’s a case of City requiring energy and speed then surely Stevan Jovetic and Marcos Lopes must be in with a strong shout to bolster the attack.

Fire starter - Jovetic could provide the verve and vitality to kick start City's title run-in. Courtesy @MCFC

Fire starter – Jovetic could provide the verve and vitality to kick start City’s title run-in. Courtesy @MCFC

Jovetic will be as good as a new signing – if he stays fit – next season. He has the ability and self confidence to take the ball directly at the opposition, forcing defenders to commit themselves to challenges.

The Montenegrin simply has to start against The Baggies and provide a recovering Sergio Aguero with the support he needs as he builds back up to match fitness.

Similarly a defence that had gone nearly nine hours without conceding a Premier League goal has managed to haemorrhage an average of two per game over the last three matches.

One point from the last six tells its own sorry story. There cannot and must not be any repeats of last Wednesday night’s performance – for goodness sake there’s a bloody title in the offing here!

That winning feeling - Nasri needs to be the architect of a City win tonight. Courtesy @MCFC

That winning feeling – Nasri needs to be the architect of a City win tonight. Courtesy @MCFC

Silva’s imminent return shouldn’t diminsh the need for Samir Nasri to spark the team into life.

Despite his late equaliser against Sunderland, and nearly grabbing a last ditch winner, Nasri was disappointing, in a season where he has so often excelled. It’s easy to look good in a winning team and Nasri, like all his team mates, are all the better when Silva plays.

As a staunch advocate of Pellegrini and, yes of course he should still be in charge next season, it would nonetheless reflect very poorly on his leadership, if his team fail to fully apply themselves to the task in hand tonight.

Put a smile on it - points make prizes and Pellegrini needs 15 of them to help City's PL title push. Courtesy @MCFC

Put a smile on it – points make prizes and Pellegrini needs 15 of them to help City’s PL title push. Courtesy @MCFC

A nine point lead looks unassailable at this late stage of the season, but with two games in hand, City must be ready to take full advantage of any Liverpool slip up.

That starts by NOT underestimating an Albion team in this, their 300th PL match. Baggies’ boss Pepe Mel is known to Pellegrini from their time as La Liga rivals.

City have not gone two PL games without a home win since December 2012, now would not be a good time to repeat the feat.

No ‘ifs’ no ‘buts’ just win and win well, goal difference could yet be a key factor.



By David Walker



  1. April 21, 2014  8:30 am by Graham Ward Reply

    Good, balanced preview there, David.
    I saw a piece from the MEN last night where it was mooted Silva might be OK, but, like you, think he may miss this one again.
    Your last point sums it up pretty well!

    • April 21, 2014  9:28 am by David Walker Reply

      Breaking news from a trusted source - Silva WILL play tonight ;-)

  2. April 21, 2014  8:51 am by Eileen Fullen Reply

    I feel there have been too many Ifs this Season and our team must show commitment as you so rightly say. If we are to aspire to greatness in this league we need that dare I say Tevez determination (when he wasn't playing golf) I always thought he gave his all on the pitch and had the winning mentality. Some quiet games at the Etihad recently from our fans who also need a lift from our players who need to perform. We are CTWD and will support them thru thick and thin. Thoroughly enjoyable read once again David

    • April 21, 2014  9:31 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Eileen - it's a chicken and egg with the team's performance and the crowd, but yes, we as a crowd, should be more vocal in our support of the team. We are sometimes frustratingly and annoyingly muted.

  3. April 21, 2014  8:55 am by DOUGLAS HENSHAW Reply

    Good piece Dave & yes a repeat of Sunderland performance should not happen & most definitely would not be acceptable. But lets all get behind the Manager & the team tonight. #togtherwearecity

    • April 21, 2014  9:32 am by David Walker Reply

      Silva now likely to play. Yes, we must win tonight or it really WILL be all over.

  4. April 21, 2014  9:04 am by guy Burke Reply

    Great blog as usual. The sight of Maureen and his coaching staffs backside falling out at the weekend was hilarious, imagine if City staff had done that ? There would be calls to kick us out of The league!! I feel the scousers are destined to win , 2 weeks on the trot now they have scraped home in a match they could have won comfortably , you get the feeling that they will not slip up badly now ? Still fight on City, you never know one thing i will credit Maureen for is that he hates everyone equally and will be determined to get something next weekend.

    • April 21, 2014  9:34 am by David Walker Reply

      I fear Liverpool will not throw it away now and, despite the hope expressed in the article, there is always the niggling doubt that Maureen may prioritise the UCL SF with Atletico Madrid and send a sub-standard team out at Anfield.

  5. April 21, 2014  9:50 am by Mark Jefferson Reply

    Great article as usual. Fully agree that we need to see Jovetic starting now. Whenever he gets the ball you always get the feeling that something will happen as he's always looking to take people on and force defenders into making challenges they don't want to do. I'd play Jovetic, Merlin and Samir as a three behind Kun tonight. I'd also put Jimmy Milner next to Ferna in the absence of Yaya. Come on City, get those three points tonight with a positive performance and a boost to the all important goal difference. Always believe!!

    • April 21, 2014  10:12 am by David Walker Reply

      I like your thinking!

  6. April 21, 2014  10:07 am by Susan richardson Reply

    I'll be there and I will be very noisy well get the family stand rocking! Agree with you about the professionalism of players. We need all the players to give their all no passengers then if they lose its tough but when they play like they don't give a dam they deserve the critisism. Usual media bile this weekend though uncalled for.

    • April 21, 2014  10:14 am by David Walker Reply

      Water off a quack's back. If we fail it must not be for a lack of effort - that is unforgivable. If Liverpool do win 14 on the trot it's hard to deny them as worthy champions.

  7. April 21, 2014  11:16 am by Simon Dear Reply

    I think Chelsea can definitely get something at Anfiled because they simply have too , and a resurgent Palace team at home is as difficult a game as any ... We would have to win our remaking fixtures which is a big ask but not impossible, but the odds are stacked in Scouse favour .. They have the momentum , the drive , the passion , and the media support for justice , along with a player who makes a mockery out of them , along with fair play & values , I see MOTD chose to ignore his antics once again.
    I still see us coming up short but until we do, until its over , lets get behind the team and fight to the end.
    Just never never know ... A shining night named Maureen might come to the rescue! ...

    • April 21, 2014  1:14 pm by David Walker Reply

      To win the title from this position would be even more remarkable than when we did it in 2012, albeit I don't think anything will ever quite surpass Aguerrrrooooo!

  8. April 21, 2014  2:15 pm by John Evans TT Reply

    Jose the artisan is probably jealous of MP the aristo, after all you can't buy class or polish a t-rd! That said, Chelsea are more than capable of bursting Brenda’s burgeoning bubble, silencing the cop in the process. Then it's game on!

    I read somewhere that City have played more games this season, but used less players (23) than any other team in the EPL, If true it's no wonder their knackered. Let's hope the Aguero/Negredo double act gets back on track tonight.

    • April 21, 2014  3:45 pm by David Walker Reply

      Yes, just the 23 - injuries have undoubtedly hindered us - Aguero missed half the season - but that always sounds insipid. Very interesting summer transfer market on the horizon.

  9. April 21, 2014  3:26 pm by John Evans TT Reply

    Talking of nemesis, The DT’s Mark Ogden is one reporter whose scribbling is as inarticulate as your is fluent.

    This is him guesting in the .

    One day I will meet him in the lift to the second floor.

    • April 21, 2014  3:42 pm by David Walker Reply

      Will he make it to the 2nd floor?

      Quote: ' I have no idea how he came to fall down the lift shaft officer...'

    • April 21, 2014  4:14 pm by David Walker Reply

      Intriguingly - what do you do & where if you have the dubious honour of a potential lift share with the red loving 'Oggie'?

  10. April 21, 2014  6:09 pm by Mole Rocks Reply

    A big game as ever. Need to win to even create the possibility of increasing pressure on Liverpool.

    Pellegrini is always positive and I like his philosophy for the game. It's unrealistic to expect the team to play to play at 100% every game, history has always shown that there are times when things just don't click.

    We can only hope that over time, City become more effective at going to places like Sunderland and Everton and getting a win.

    City are still progressing in the right direction, replacing Lescott, Barry, etc., with better players in the summer will help.

    Come on City, win tonight and continue the fight.

    • April 22, 2014  8:07 pm by David Walker Reply

      We're hanging in there but it's so difficult to see Liverpool faltering...but that's why it's called a 'shock' when something unexpected occurs. Here's to Shocksville Arizona bestowing its best on the team from Anfield.

  11. April 21, 2014  7:06 pm by James HouseOlogy Reply

    Great piece again. We need to play these next 5 like we have every will in the world that there is still a chance of winning the title and a hope and a prayer that 2 London clubs give us a look in!!! Liverpool have rode there luck for a few games now, and i think there's still a chance of there luck.possibly running out?? Or maybe I'm on a wish and prayer!!

    • April 22, 2014  8:05 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks James - I'm wishing and praying with you mate daring to dream the impossible dream. I just think Chelsea won't be focused on Liverpool because of UCL and it might all be decided at the Palace - both for us and the Scousers.

  12. April 22, 2014  2:56 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    Obviousy this written after the game

    Big improvement from last Wednesday. Much more fluid in the first half and thought we could make it 4 before half time. The 2nd half was more efficient than exciting but overall it was a job well done. Am bemused how a free kick just outside the Baggie's penalty area could end up with the West Brom goal within seconds, but guess it wouldn't be City without some "in hindsight" chuckle !

    It appeared from where we sit that the Silva incident was caused by how merlin fell and not by any bad contact and up until that point his dodgy ankle didn't seem to be causing any problems as he was his usual super self.

    If I am correct the West Brom player immediately kicked the ball out of play without any instruction from the referee - If that is true full marks to the lad - especially in a weekend where the sarcastic Mourinho's comments about their referee, when Ramires, I think it was, should have had a straight red just endorses the increasing feeling that the guy is just becoming one big boring yawn - and Suarez went down as if pole-axed and then as if by a miracle he was up like the proverbial spring chicken. Never, Never, Never in a blue shirt please !

    On the the sportsmanship theme, just to go away from City, it was reported I think that Gary Neville said English players should learn how to dive before the World Cup. I hope Gary ,that is untrue, or tongue in cheek, or taken out of context.

    Your pre-match preview mentioned Jovetic and his possible input. I expected him to start instead of David Silva but once again when he came on he looked lively and one thing he will do - have a "punt". Like a lot of people it seems City forwards can make one pass to many and lose that half chance ,and yes it is always easier watching from the stands than having the ball at your feet. If he can stay injury free next season he should become a very good addition to the squad.

    A few weeks ago I would never have thought Demichelis would have got the MOTM award and overall he deserved it.

    So let's give it a go at Palace and hope the Chelski Champs League involvement doesn't affect their trip to Liverpool

    • April 22, 2014  8:03 pm by David Walker Reply

      100% on all aspects of your comment Richard. Thanks for reading and the feedback. I am genuinely delighted for MDM - he clearly isn't the future but he's doing pretty darn good in the present.

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