What, with the demise of that ‘decent man’ David Moyes, preparations for Queen Brenda’s coronation and the onset of the ‘Giggs Era’, it’s little wonder that a team who could yet be the champions of England have been absent from the scrutiny of the impartial football media.
Granted, by Sunday evening I could be fully certified and carted off to the nearest sanatorium but, as things stand, if Jose Mourinho’s Under-15s can beat every commentator’s most loved up team at Anfield, there could still be a title race to be run.
Even if Liverpool beat Chelsea, the overwhelming title favourites will have to wait a little longer provided Manchester City can recapture the winning habit all the way through to May 11th.
Call it pessimistic, pragmatic or just plain realistic but it’s going to take a major shock for City to regain control of their Premier League destiny – no sh*t Sherlock – but it’s not inconceivable.
All Manuel Pellegrini can do is honour his words of recent days and try to continue his simple football philosophy, that of trying to win every game. Not an easy task considering the next two fixtures.
Tony Pulis, a man who is mercilessly ribbed for his sartorial elegance as an advertisement for his employer’s shop (whether it’s Gillingham, Stoke or now Palace) would love nothing more than to give City a right dressing down.
Admired, for what is admittedly a tremendous achievement in turning Palace’s season around with mid-table salvation, Pulis detests City. Let’s face it we have screwed up his CV over the years and he wants payback.
Pellegrini, shorn of the genius of Silva and speed of Navas, will do well to take all three points at Selhurst Park with Palace on a five-game winning streak, but nothing else will suffice.
The potential return of Yaya Toure should be a colossal comfort, provided of course that, in the words of Noel Gallagher, the Ivorian giant doesn’t have one of those days where he ‘…turns up with a deck chair and an iPad and sets up in the centre circle…’ uninterested in the objective of the day.
Nominated for the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year Award, Yaya has plundered 22 goals from midfield this season. He is one of the finest players ever to have sky blue adorn his chest and already an iconic figure in City’s history.
Yaya has recently been complaining that he doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves as a world class player, because he’s African. He claims if he were European or a South American he would be more appropriately lauded.
All City fans know is that if the big man is on his game then City have every chance, every expectation, of maximum points.
Pulis will be going for a record sixth consecutive win for Palace in the top flight. He knows the key to success is blanking City and making it five clean sheets from the last half-a-dozen games. The fiery Welshman is reputed to be on a £1m bonus if Palace survive the drop, so it’s already mission accomplished – great news for the Crystal Palace retail department.
Palace are the division’s second lowest scorers at home, with just 15. Aguero, Negredo, Dzeko, Jovetic, Nasri…whoever is selected, needs to put the hosts on the back foot and get City in front as soon as possible and quieten one of the most vociferous crowds in the PL.
If the likes of Jason Puncheon are given time and space by a leaky City defence it could prove hazardous in the extreme. Having previously gone nearly nine hours without conceding, Joe Hart has had to retrieve the ball from his net eight times in the last five games.
Palace, along with Liverpool, are the PL’s form teams, and a fixture which looked like a ‘gimmee’ last July is far from it now.
If it proves as tough an obstacle as is envisaged, but is ultimately overcome by City, then hope springs eternal, with Liverpool next up into the atmospheric cauldron in South East London.
Who knows, if City are on a roll as they head towards one of their most unhappy of hunting grounds – Goodison Park – and Everton are well off the pace for 4th place, could the Toffees entertain the possibility of helping deprive Liverpool of their first PL title?
It’s a fanciful notion and, more than likely that’s all it will ever be, but back-to-back away wins would set Pellegrini’s team up for a barnstorming season finale with home fixtures against Aston Villa and West Ham.
Comparisons with 2012, and City’s seemingly hopeless pursuit of Manure are inevitable, only this time it’s harder, much harder. Even so it was with just four games to go that Roberto Mancini regained control in that memorable title run-in.
Having lost just one of their last 10 PL games – the controversial 3-2 defeat to Liverpool – City should have the confidence and the conviction to go and do what needs to be done.
It’ll be an examination of City’s collective resolve and will reveal whether or not, for all the talent within their ranks, the sky blues have the bottle to keep on battling.
The 2,500 travelling fans will sing loud and proud about how City ‘…fight ‘till the end…’ so let’s ensure nothing is concluded tomorrow in respect of the title.
Who knows, if it turns out to be a Blue Sunday – sky and royal – City might even warrant some positive media coverage, albeit given begrudgingly.
By David Walker