Manchester City’s strength in depth is amply demonstrated in that Manuel Pellegrini could recall Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Stevan Jovetic, Aleksander Kolarov, Bacary Sagna and Frank Lampard for the visit to Leicester City – none of whom started that glorious night in Rome.
The City boss is spoilt for choice as injuries heal and suspensions don’t apply, but he has to strike the right balance between fresh legs and player rotation on the one hand, and continuity and a winning consistency on the other.
Shorn of their talismanic superstar Sergio Aguero, City were expected to take timid, faltering steps during their Champions League showdown in the Stadio Olimpico, culminating in inglorious failure.
In recording a euphoric Champions League win over AS Roma, they took hefty big strides towards confounding their critics and still having enough spring in their step to kick the biased bastard press where it hurts…right in the editorial columns!
Henry Winter, Martin Samuel, Oliver Holt and a handful of others aside, the Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool loving louse of the media can’t stomach City’s success.
It’s ironic that a journalist of the standing of the magnificent Samuel, works for the same paymasters as the nefarious Neil Ashton and some no-mark maggot called Magee at the Daily Fail.
And according to the Grauniad’s resident jaundiced jerk, Jamie Jackson, City produced a ‘…disjointed display against Serie A’s second placed side, one who made City look like a band of naive millionaire footballers led by a manager, Manuel Pellegrini, whose tactical nous at this level is questionable.’
What a contemptible arse-wipe you are JJ!
Anyway back to football.
Healthy competition for places in City’s star spangled squad, should guard against complacency as the Sky Blues – minus Sergio – go searching for a fifth consecutive Premier League win, and their seventh on the bounce including victories over Bayern Munich and the Italians.
The transformation in City’s performances – not just the results – and confidence levels, have been as dramatic as they have been joyous since the last international break.
With Chelsea surging eight points clear, Pellegrini had called for eight league wins before the end of 2014 to stay within touching distance of Mourinho’s runaway leaders.
After maximum points from Swansea, Southampton, Sunderland and Everton, City’s now very well trusted MP, is halfway to a full house. Never mind being tactile with Chelsea, the Mancunians are breathing down the back of Maureen’s neck.
After Leicester come Crystal Palace, WBA and Burnley all very winnable fixtures, but City mustn’t take anything for granted, having already come a cropper against first Stoke, and then West Ham, in games they were expected to win.
Nigel Pearson’s Foxes are rock bottom and winless in the league since a rather splendid 5-3 whipping of Louis Van Gutteral’s Gaalacticos back in September.
With only two points from the last possible 30, Pearson is a favourite with the bookies to be the first managerial casualty in the Premier League this season. Their 10 points from 15 fixtures is their joint worst ever return at this stage of any top flight campaign.
City must add to Leicester’s woes and enhance their away record which, at 17 points taken from 24, is presently the best in the league.
Ex-City keeper Kasper Schmeichel will be missing between the posts having been touched by the curse of the metatarsal. His broken foot gives Ben Hamer the opportunity to impress, in only his second ever PL appearance.
Doubts still remain whether Captain Kompany and Merlin Silva will actually start, or whether Pellegrini, buoyed by City’s brilliance in the Eternal City, will ease them in gently, from the substitutes’ bench.
Yaya Toure will be returning, after sitting out the second of his three match Champions League ban against Roma. It’ll be interesting to see if Pellegrini sticks with his slightly more cautious, but highly effective 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 formation.
It paid big dividends in Rome with Fernando and Fernandinho combining to put in a near peerless double act, protecting the back four.
Any more repeats of that calibre would leave Yaya free to move up field in direct support of a lone striker – Dzeko or Jovetic – in the absence of Aguero.
Sergio’s countryman, Leonardo Ulloa, although uncapped by Argentina, is Leicester’s main threat and top scorer with half-a-dozen goals in 15 games. He raised big smiles in Manchester when bagging a brace against Manure.
Any chance of a repeat would get an ice cold reception from Pellegrini, just at a time when City are cutting back on their laundry bills and keeping clean sheets.
Conversely, Leicester have shut out the opposition just twice all season, and with Nasri, Jovetic, Dzeko, Silva, Navas and Milner all keen to get their strikes way, it could be a busy second outing for young Hamer.
It’s extremely unlikely to be ‘as you were’ or anything approaching ‘all change’ as The Engineer fine tunes his purring machine, but whoever represents City needs to be as ruthless with the legions of Leicester as they were in ruining Rome.
By David Walker
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