Heartburn and the aftertaste of a disagreeable ‘Italian’ should be replaced with easier to digest domestic fair, as Manchester City re-focus on the ‘bread and butter’ of the Premier League.
Juventus’ 2-1 Champions League win at the Etihad still sticks in the throat, but City have to move on and gobble up a win at the expense of West Ham’s jellied eels, pie and mash brigade.
Much has been written and said about City’s failure to win their opening Champions League fixture, for a fifth successive season, and whilst hugely disappointing, it doesn’t mean imminent failure for Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
If City win their sixth consecutive top flight game since the season kicked off, it’ll be a club record. If they keep a seventh consecutive clean sheet it’ll be a club record. If they take their winning sequence to 12/12 in the Premier League it’ll be a club record, and just two shy of Arsenal’s all time 14/14 record.
A maximum 18 points and 100% record would be a great achievement, but with the season not quite 1/6th complete, only a fool would say City were certainties for a third title in just five years.
Similarly, City’s Champions League campaign is only 1/6th complete, and only an idiot would be writing off City’s chances of making it out of Group D, either as winners or runners-up.
That’s not to say the poisonous pundits and press weren’t rejoicing at City’s first setback of the season.
Ex-Sky Blues, Messrs McManaman and Quinn could barely contain their joy at having – at long last – the opportunity to slag off their former employer and stick the proverbial boot in.
It’s almost on a par with the armchair saddos who get up close and personal to their TV screens to spot the unoccupied blue seats at City’s home games.
First we had the barbs about the ‘Council House’, whereas nowadays it’s the ‘Emptyhad’ – slurs thrown around, often from the Theatre of Screams, more commonly recognisable as The Swamp.
A crowd of just under 50,400 watched the game with a great swathe of seats in the newly extended – and rather magnificent – third tier of the South Stand, unpopulated because Juve didn’t take their full allocation.
The Etihad’s new 55,000 capacity is reduced for CL fixtures, so all things being equal, you could only get a couple of cigarette papers between what would have been a full house and any shortfall.
This fixation with empty seats is puerile nonsense.
At a time when City are reputed to have 42,000 season ticket holders and a growing waiting list, does any City fan care if there are a few unoccupied seats now and again?
The Champions League is, and always has been, a massive pain in the backside for City, albeit a necessary one if the club is to aspire to greatness and global adulation.
It’s galling because the team has still to show its mettle in a competition that carries glory and commercial kudos in equal measure, but one that is matched by contempt and suspicion from within the City ranks.
The Old Lady of Italian Football got lucky on the night, but there’s plenty of time and opportunity for Pellegrini to exact his revenge and gather the 11 points that would ensure progress to the knockout stages.
Back on the home front, City have to ‘vent their spleen’ by hammering the East End Irons on Saturday evening.
Having already won away at Arsenal and Liverpool, City will know not to take Slaven Bilic’s side lightly, despite the Londoner’s woeful recent record at the Etihad.
Seven straight defeats, 20 goals conceded and only three scored does nothing to suggest City could be heading for a fall, but you never can tell.
It’s been 9 hours and 26 minutes since Joe Hart last picked the ball out of his Premier League net, but injuries have forced changes to City’s back four.
Captain Vincent Kompany is ruled out by a calf injury so the home fans should expect to see Nicolas Otamendi start for the first time since his £30m+ move from Valencia.
Pellegrini has hinted at a start for veteran Martin Demichelis, but whether that comes in the league, or at Sunderland in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night, remains to be seen.
The season is still in its infancy but City have already had more than their fair share of injuries. Samir Nasri suffered a knock against Juve and, along with recent absentees Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy and Fabian Delph, is unavailable.
Sergio Aguero is fit to start and hopefully David Silva and Raheem Sterling will return to their best after looking less than 100% against the Italians.
Kevin De Bruyne will surely be starting after two substitute appearances as he gets to grips with City’s playing patterns and formations.
Rising star Kelechi Inheanacho will be in contention after his crowning glory at the Palace and enforced omission from the Champions League squad.
A win over West Ham will be a much more palatable outcome after City made such a ‘bolognaise’ of trying to beat Juventus, leaving Chelsea, Arsenal, Manure and Liverpool feeding off scraps from the top of the table.
By David Walker
Dedicated to two Mums who share the same birthday of September 19th and gave birth to two wonderful children who sport the initials of DJW 😉
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