Manchester City’s salvation mission in 2012/13 could commence at the scene of mass Mancunian salivation in 2011/12, when Roberto Mancini’s wounded troops roll into ‘Toon’.
The clash, with a struggling Newcastle United is in sharp contrast to the penultimate contest of City’s victorious Premier League campaign, when both teams were the ‘form sides’ in the top flight.
Yaya Toure’s unforgettable brace at St James’s Park last May virtually gift wrapped City’s first PL title, albeit nobody could have envisaged the staggering route to the prize a week later against QPR.
City go into the match still raw from the bitter disappointment of derby day defeat, but heartened by their courageous, well crafted, but, ultimately doomed, comeback against Man United.
Captain Fantastic Vincent Kompany is a major doubt – certainly after Mancini said he had a ‘2%’ chance of playing – whereas City’s most unsung hero, Gareth Barry is suspended having allegedly unleashed an expletive tirade against Mark Twattenburg last Sunday.
In a game where Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand were ‘effin & jeffin’ throughout, it amounts to mind-boggling hypocrisy that the mild mannered Barry, should be singled out for punishment.
It is gobsmackingly incredulous that a modern day footballer is banned for swearing, especially in the immediate aftermath of an acrimonious affair, pulsating with passion and naked aggression.
On another level, it is yet another example of the anti-MCFC traits trotted out by football’s officialdom. Typical Twattenburg – he must have got his hair – sorry, make that his carefully coiffeured resident ‘rugrat’ on his questionably corrupt cranium – off, with Barry.
Banned he may be, but Gazz Bazz’s status has elevated rapidly with the outraged City fans loving his new found edgy eloquence. Gareth’s observational skills are reputed to have extended to asking the ‘C’ word (Clattenburg) how far he could get a certain appendage up between Sir Baconface’s ruddy cheeks…allegedly.
One can only imagine the Blue Moon Brigade’s humorous lyricist’s will have a suitably subtle Gareth Barry Appreciation Society song echoing around St James’s Park, come the lunch time kick-off.
A final observation on City’s first PL home defeat in two years – how noticeable was it that United’s players, management and fans celebrated wildly – almost as if it were their Cup Final. A role reversal from bygone times, when a win against Mancunian foe was the highlight of City’s season.
Hopefully James Milner may be in contention to fill the berth vacated by the ‘Foul Mouthed Manchester One’ against his old club. Lescott or, more likely Kolo Toure (Mancini prefers a left foot- right foot combination)could play, alongside the super smooth Serbian centre back, Matija Nastasic.
‘Nasty’ is emerging as one of the buys of the season, unlike Javi Garcia who, thus far, has delivered his ‘rabbit in headlights’ impersonation far too often.
If the highly rated ex Benfica and Real Madrid midfielder – described as ‘The new Roy Keane’ by respected Spanish football expert Guillem Balague– can adapt more readily to English football, he could yet have a major influence.
If City are to bridge the six point deficit they must start converting draws into wins. They remain the only PL team undefeated on their travels, but have only scored nine goals in seven away games.
The question is will Mancini go for the popular pairing of Aguero and Tevez, or will he persist with the seemingly doomed obsession of waiting for Mario Balotelli to fulfil his potential? Dzeko can have no complaints if he is on the bench as ‘Supersub’.
Nasri needs to put in some 5-Star showings to win over City fans, appalled at his cowardly antics in the defensive wall leading to United’s last gasp winner.
City haven’t lost to Newcastle in the last 11 meetings and have won five on the spin. A sixth would help get back on track and boost morale going into the festive fixtures.
With Newcastle having won just one of their last 10 games, Alan Pardew’s misfiring Magpie’s are likely to be without the dangerous Hatem Ben Arfa, but Senegalese strikers Demba Ba and Papis Cisse could prove a handful.
It’ll be history in the making if City can achieve a fourth consecutive top flight clean sheet away from the Etihad, and help Mancini celebrate his third year as City boss on December 19th.
With Christmas just around the corner, Mancini knows he can’t gift any more points to opponents if City are to be in contention for the top prize in May.