A fixture that could once have been regarded as easy as picking low hanging fruit, is now a potential banana skin for Premier League Champions Manchester City.
Invariably where there’s fruit there’s often a nut, and one Joseph Barton, pseudo philosopher, tweeter extraordinaire and England footballer of 12 minutes standing, will be present as QPR take on City at Loftus Road.
Joey’s sole senior international appearance came as a 78th minute substitute, replacing City’s now very own Super Frankie Lampard, during a 1-0 defeat to Spain in February 2007.
One can only imagine Roy Hodgson’s relief when Joey renounced his retirement from international football on July 14th, 2014, declaring his availability for England once more.
Maybe Roy himself has to imagine how he might have felt – did Hodgson or anybody else actually know or care that Barton had deigned to don the shirt bearing the Three Lions, if selected?
The Scouse scally was a City player back in the day of his England ‘pomp’, so what irony that Lampard, the man he replaced, the man who played 106 times, scoring 26 goals for his country, could be opposing him in midfield.
Lampard can provide much needed leadership on the field if he returns from a thigh strain that has seen him miss the last five games, especially with skipper Vincent Kompany out injured.
The influential captain joins the even more influential David Silva on the sidelines, as City try and sustain their defence of the Premier League title.
Elation at a fourth consecutive Manchester derby win evaporated midweek, when City succumbed in pathetic style against CSKA in the Champions League.
Conversely, QPR were in freefall a few weeks ago, roundly ridiculed and written off after an insipid 4-0 hammering at Manure. But sterling performances against Liverpool and Chelsea when Redknapp’s men narrowly lost, plus a 2-0 home win over Aston Villa, has instilled belief and determination.
However, Rio Ferdinand is suspended after being an unutterable tw*t on Twitter. Camelface’s absence is a big blow to City, even more than that of missing Kompany and Silva.
Dodgy ‘Arry will probably turn to City old boys Richard Dunne and Nedum Onouha to repel the invaders from the north. Dunninho will be up against the league’s hottest striker, Sergio Aguero.
Quicksilver Sergio, has scored 10 PL goals this season, the same as Richard’s record-breaking career haul of 10 own goals in the league.
For all his foibles, Dunne is still highly regarded by City’s rank and file supporters. He is unmatched as City’s player of the season for four consecutive years, during 48 months of comparative famine before the present day feast under Sheikh Mansour’s stewardship.
Gael Clichy is, like Dunne, a Jekyll & Hyde performer, outstanding against Manchester United after Aleksander Kolarov injured himself in the warm up, but dire against CSKA.
Clichy can count himself lucky that Serb AK47 is out for a month. He gets a chance of immediate redemption in the confined space of the smallest pitch in the PL.
Martin Demichelis might have a sense of déjà vu in Kompany’s absence. Last season City were coming off the back of another Champions League disappointment in Barcelona, when Captain Fantastic was sent off at Hull.
Demi – much maligned at the time – stepped up and never looked back and has since gone on to play in a World Cup Final and establish himself as a favourite with the City fans.
Eliaquim Mangala will likely form the centre back pairing and hope to get back to his superb debut display against Chelsea. The 23-year old French defender has had problems adjusting to the intensity of the PL…now is as good a time as any to do just that.
Yaya will – if selected (!) – take the armband, but for all of the pros and cons surrounding the Ivorian, he absolutely is not the stuff of which captain’s are made.
Manuel Pellegrini would be well advised to give the leadership duties to Zabaleta, Lampard even Demichelis.
If City go in with the attitude shown in two indifferent overall displays against CSKA, they could easily come undone in this claustrophobic space of West London.
Rangers may well have conceded the most goals (20) in the PL so far, and be third lowest scorers with (9), but in Charlie Austin and Eduardo Vargas, Redknapp has strikers who can punish City’s wobbly defence.
Pellegrini has been submerged in negativity since that cold night in Moscow on October 21st, but a fourth away win of the season could see City close up on Chelsea who play in the lunchtime kick-off at Liverpool.
The under-fire Chilean needs to keep his legendary ‘cool’, take a pragmatic approach and ensure his team fight for the right to play the expansive, attacking game for which they are renowned.
City haven’t been reduced to being ‘Dogs of War’ but they definitely need to add bite to their midfield play and when a QPR player is tackled, he bloomin’ well stays tackled.
Another City slip up would see Pellegrini and his team right in the jam, and their hopes and dreams of retaining the Premier League crown sliding away.
By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu