The prodigal son has survived yet another spat with the guiding light in his career…thus Mario Balotelli has every chance of playing for
as they begin their FA Cup quest.
Schizophrenic Mario – ‘Mad’ or ‘Super’ depending on your perspective – literally got to grips with Roberto Mancini in training, much to the delight of the praying mantis paparazzi, who delight in presenting City in the worst possible light to the wider world.
Handbags at Carrington aside, the big worry for City fans isn’t the resident errant Sicilian, nor the unlikely prospect of being stung by FA Cup 3rd round opponents Watford…no, the focus of concern is the marital difficulties of Sergio Aguero, complete with damaged hamstring.
The Argentine superstar will be missing from the starting line up when City take on Gianfranco Zola’s Hornets at the Etihad Stadium, after picking up the injury in the Stoke New Year’s Day massacre.
Stories of his marriage break up to Diego Maradona’s youngest daughter, Giannina, and her moving back to Argentina with their three-year old son Benjamin, have City supporters fearing the prolific striker could be bound for Real Madrid and a more Latin lifestyle in the summer.
City’s joint top scorer, with 10 goals this term will hopefully be back for the testing trip to the Emirates a week on Sunday, when City will look to break a 37-year hoodoo and win a league game away to Arsenal.
But before we all go into Aguero fret overdrive, City have to overcome the loss of up to nine players as they seek to emulate their FA Cup success of two seasons ago.
Yaya Toure has been reminiscing this week about that wonderful watershed win on May 14th 2011, stating that City need to have their ‘strongest team’ available to battle for a PL and Cup double.
Nice sentiments, but it would help if he wasn’t putting country before club and jetting off to the African Cup of Nations for a second consecutive year. One empathises with his dilemma but, nonetheless, actions speak louder than words as he departs with brother Kolo and young Abdul Razak.
Mancini will also be without the suspended Samir Nasri, along with the injured Richards, Rodwell, Kolarov and Maicon.
With such an extensive list of absentees, Mancini isn’t spolit for choice in the selection stakes. It would be folly to select a ‘second-string’ team in a competition that was effectively the launchpad for the new and successful City, just 20 months ago.
His Italian counterpart has transformed
Watford’s traditional ‘lump and bump’ style that served them so well over the years into ‘carpet football’ and making them real contenders in the Championship.
Sitting sixth and well in play-off contention,
Watford are reputed to be bringing a 6,000 strong travelling support, plus a real attacking threat.
Vincent Kompany & Co should be wary of Zola’s twin strikers of Troy Deeney and his Czech mate, Matej Vydra.
Vydra has scored 12 goals in 21 league games and made four international appearances for the
at the age of 20. Elder statesman, Deeney (24) has notched 10 in 19 matches.
Mancini will surely start with Dzeko who, with four goals in two games, is a ‘confidence’ player who would fancy his chances of adding to his haul.
Tevez will surely be his strike partner but, with Mancini saying Balotelli has ‘…100 more chances’ at City, who would bet against the maverick striker being in the starting line up?
Unlike the disrupted forward line, City’s defence is showing signs of the solidity that served them so well last season. Restored to the team to help combat Stoke’s physicality and aerial threat, Joleon Lescott may give way to the excellent Matija Nastasic, as Mancini seeks to nulify the deft and speedy
The excellent Zabaleta and
should be nailed on in the wing back berths, but the midfield void left by Yaya needs to be filled. Barry, Milner and Garcia could be deployed to good effect and Mancini may be tempted to see how Denis Suarez performs against lower league opposition.
David Silva could be rested, but available on the bench if – God forbid – needed to rescue City from adversity.
Commonsense says City should be in the fourth round draw on Sunday afternoon, but only if it’s confidence and not arrogance coursing through the veins of a strong City first XI.
Whether that applies to a certain gifted, but fundamentally flawed Mohican styled striker remains to be seen.