Surely Manchester City only have to turn up at 3pm today and they’re guaranteed three points against Felix Magath’s floundering Fulham. It’s a nailed on home win and the main focus has to be the derby at the Theatre of Screams on Tuesday night!
If, God forbid, that’s Manuel Pellegrini’s mindset, City may as well kiss goodbye to their Premier League title winning chances right now.
It can only be hoped that Pellegrini has learned there are no guarantees, no home bankers, no ‘gimmees’ in English football.
After the ignominious FA Cup exit to Wigan and those early season reversals at Cardiff, Aston Villa and Sunderland, the City boss must field his strongest side for every one of City’s 11 remaining fixtures.
Dropped points against the bottom of the table Londoners would make any subsequent victories at the likes of The Swamp, The Emirates and Anfield a tad hollow.
As Pellegrini’s predecessor, Roberto Mancini used to say ‘…in this moment…’ City are indeed masters of their own destiny.
Squad rotation and the ‘resting’ of players has to be put on hold until next season. There’s no margin for error, no latitude for holding key players back for the supposed big ‘head-to-heads’ with the Dark Side and fellow title contenders Arsenal and Liverpool.
Forget the salaries, the transfer fees and the media bullshit, this is a time for self motivation, naked ambition and collective responsibility.
This is a time to prove a hashtag of #TrustOurMP has substance and will resonate all the way through to May 11th to see Manchester City lift the PL trophy aloft for the second time in 36 months.
City are 990 minutes – technically speaking – from a momentous achievement, especially for Pellegrini, who stands to join a very exclusive club of foreign managers to win the title in their first full season in England.
Only Wenger, Mourinho and Ancelotti can boast such a feat on their CVs, and Pellegrini would love to be among such an elite band.
Even without superstar striker Sergio Aguero and Captain Fantastic Vincent Kompany, there can be no excuses for not beating a Fulham side that has so far conceded 65 PL goals this season.
City have scored 71 league goals at a rate of 3.18 per game with Aguero, but only 1.70 without. It’s time for Alvaro Negredo ‘The Beast’ to stop playing like a pussycat and recapture his 2013 form.
Rumours have surfaced that Negredo’s family are unsettled in Manchester, even if the man himself isn’t, and thoughts linger that he has lost his edge since injuring his shoulder in the Capital One Cup semi final in late January.
Edin Dzeko broke his nine game goal drought last Saturday to clinch the excellent 2-0 victory at Hull City and, despite his poor chances to goals ratio, the Bosnian is always a potential match winner.
Stevan Jovetic – the most frustrating of Pellegrini’s summer signings because of perpetual injuries – will be available, but will most likely be on the bench.
Last weekend’s defensive heroics by Martin Demichelis and Javi Garcia – after Kompany saw red – were duly noted by the majority of City fans who have tended to think chocolate fire guards were more effective than the veteran Argentine and experienced Spaniard.
But credit where it’s due, the pair formed an impenetrable centre back partnership for 80 minutes, but will Joleon Lescott get the nod, with Garcia operating in his preferred position as a holding midfielder?
Fatuous rumours of David Silva getting injured in training would be devastating if true, but the hope is that it is just social media mischief.
The Spanish playmaker, turned goalscorer at the KC Stadium, was sublime in the hard fought 2-0 win. His absence would be a massive blow, so let’s hope there’s no foundation to the scare stories.
In the absence of the suspended Kompany, Yaya Toure is expected to captain the side. As brilliant as he can be on his day, Yaya is no on the field leader and Pellegrini should be handing the armband to Pablo Zabaleta.
Despite the media witch hunt against City, it must be said that the team has been ‘fortunate’ not to have lost Yaya, Joe Hart and Kompany to suspension (or longer suspensions) in recent weeks.
Yaya could easily have copped for a violent conduct charge after an innocuous, but nonetheless, adolescent kick out at Norwich City’s Robbie van Wolfswinkel.
Hart, thankfully, was booked for his ‘spat with Hull City’s ‘Spit the Dog’ impersonator, George Boyd, or he might have been facing a three-match ban, whereas Kompany would be well advised to cut out the hand gestures.
None of the actions really warranted bans BUT City can do themselves a favour by not supplying their legions of detractors with any ammunition.
Fulham – massive underdogs – recorded their first win in nine matches against Newcastle last time out and, under Magath’s gruelling physical training regime, are fighting for their PL lives.
Recent history shows the Cottagers have no away-day apprehensions against City, winning three, drawing four and losing just three of their last 10 trips to the Etihad.
Led by the now England Manager, Roy Hodgson, Fulham were heading for the PL trapdoor in April 2008, when 2-0 down at half time, to Sven Goran Eriksson’s City.
Three second half goals saw Fulham pull off an incredible win and a help administer a very embarrassing and unseemly end to Sven’s managerial reign, topped off by a last day 8-1 humiliation away to Middlesbrough.
But that was then and this is now, and a repeat performance of the poise, skill and tenacity on show at the KC Stadium a week ago will see City achieve to their 13th home league win in 14 attempts.
With the emphasis on attack, little has been made of Joe Hart trying to make up ground and go for his fourth consecutive golden glove – the award for the highest number of clean sheets in the PL.
If Fulham fail to score, it will be the first time in 14 months that City will have recorded a shutout for four consecutive PL games. It would maintain their ranking as the second best defensive unit in the PL, whereas a City goal fest could see the sky blues eclipse Liverpool as the league’s highest scorers.
Patience by both players and fans could be the key to a critical home win. Thoughts on David Moyes ‘football genius’ can, and will, wait until Saturday night.
By David Walker