Back in 1979 the Monty Python team asked, ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’
The supposedly rhetorical question from the fictional ‘People’s Front of Judea’, drew unexpected answers in the hilarious film ‘Life of Brian’.
The Romans who were being derided by John Cleese & Co had actually provided the Jews with the aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, education, wine, public baths, law & order and peace!
Okay, so you have to have seen the film to appreciate the humour, but 35 years on a man with the same initials as Monty Python is asking questions about some modern day Romans in the Champions League.
Correction, Manuel Pellegrini will be asking his players to ask questions of AS Roma, and banking on the men from the Stadio Olimpico to come up short with the answers.
City’s trusted MP even has his own Brian by his side to ensure City enjoy life among Europe’s elite.
Kiddo and Ruben Cousillas have been minding the shop on the Champions League touchline at Barcelona and Bayern Munich while Manuel ‘did his time’ for the ‘crime’ of correctly stating that a Swede was more akin to a turnip.
But enough about referee Jonas Eriksson, the architect of Barcelona’s 2-0 win at the Etihad last February.
With 11 goals scored in their last two outings against Sheffield Wednesday and Hull, City have found the scoring touch that produced a staggering 156 successful strikes last season.
The goals are coming from a healthy spread of players, noticeably Aguero, Dzeko and Lampard with Stevan Jovetic ready to return after a five game lay-off. James Milner and Jesus Navas have displayed fine form, while David Silva is well, David Silva – enough said.
Yaya’s looking more interested and Fernandinho seems to have adapted back to a sky blue shirt, after the horror shows he became accustomed to in the yellow of Brazil.
City have kept only two clean sheets in eight competitive games so far this season – ironic, given that the squad has more strength in depth than in previous years.
Joe Hart is restored to the team to replace Willy Caballero after Pellegrini carried out his intention of squad rotation for all, hence Joe has had a rest since the likes of Munich and Chelsea.
Pellegrini rightly states that Hart is, “In a good moment…” and a new five-year deal is in the offing for City’s number one – further testimony to the manager’s faith in the 27 year old Englishman, who has 262 City first team appearances to his name.
Captain Kompany will anchor the defence with veteran Martin Demichelis his likely partner in place of Eliaquim Mangala.
The young Frenchman had a difficult first half at Hull but, with Roma’s attack led by 38-year old Francesco Totti, Demi – soon to be 34 – will seem like a young buck against a true Roman, a one club man and Roma’s all time leading scorer (235 goals).
City should benefit from the absence of Totti’s fellow Roman, Daniele De Rossi who has a torn calf muscle. Former City boss Roberto Mancini pursued the signature of the defensive midfielder over several transfer windows, but all to no avail.
The captain of the Italian national team was on the cusp of coming to the Etihad as he played financial ‘Russian Roulette’ with the AS Roma board, in search of improved terms from his hometown club.
His arrival would have been a huge boost for Mancini’s City. Likewise his likely absence would be a huge boost for Pellegrini’s City.
Expect Zabaleta and Kolarov to occupy the full back positions, as City mobilise their overlapping wing backs to stretch the joint Serie A leaders.
Roma have conceded only once in the league and once to CSKA Moscow, having hammered five in at the other end in their opening Group E game.
They have a 100% record along with Juventus, with both teams having won their opening five games, but something has to give on Sunday when they go head-to-head.
Pellegrini will not underestimate Roma, but the quality of the modern day Serie A is in stark contrast to a quarter of a century ago, when it was the best league in the world.
Manager Rudi Garcia does not have the luxury of being able to focus on the domestic Italian showdown as his team tries to improve on its wretched record in England – just one win in 14 attempts.
Garcia claims Roma will adopt a ‘positive approach’ at the Etihad but then almost contradicts himself in saying, “We need to be protagonists and not spectators and make it hard for Manchester City.”
An interesting sub-plot is the possibility of ex-Chelsea legends Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole playing against each other. Neither could have ever envisaged such a scenario with one seemingly New York bound and the other off to the Eternal City.
Fernando isn’t quite ready to enter the fray and Samir Nasri is a confirmed casualty for the next month or so after surgery, but those two apart, Pellegrini has a full 19-man squad from which to select his team.
It has to be 11 or 14 players who will get the job done.
Anything less than three points would leave City’s Champions League aspirations hanging in the balance, rather like the ending of another classic movie – The Italian Job.
Manuel is in charge of City’s ‘Self Preservation Society’ and a home win is imperative.
By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu
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