If Vincent Kompany holds the Premier League trophy aloft on May 19, 2013, it may well be that Manchester City will owe a debt of gratitude to an obscure Nigerian midfielder.
Little known Sunday Mba was the cause of great rejoicing in the blue half of Manchester last weekend as an uninspired City laboured to a 2-2 stalemate with Liverpool.
His goal sent the highly fancied Ivory Coast tumbling out of the African Cup of Nations (ACON), hastening the return of a man on a mission back to the warm embrace of the Etihad.
Enter stage right Yaya Toure, the powerhouse talisman of the Premier League Champions, the ‘Spartacus-like’ leader – the inspirational individual to fire up the embers of a dying campaign and blaze a trail back to the top of the league.
No pressure or expectations then on the broad shoulders of the Ivorian colossus!
He should never have left in the first place, for the ill-conceived second ACON in two years, but the fact that he is now back to bolster the endeavours and confidence of Roberto Mancini’s men could be a crucial factor as they hunt down the reprobate Reds.
In almost mythological fashion, Yaya the Titan, must go forth and slay Saints tonight, if the Sky Blue Army are once again to behold their beloved team as Gods in the PL arena.
Mancini must deploy Yaya as the marauding menace in support of a twin Argentine attack of Aguero and Tevez, thereby recreating the all conquering spearhead that sliced and diced its way to the title.
City have the personnel, the experience and the confidence to make this campaign even more glorious than the last. Irrespective of victories of recent past, a second consecutive PL title would herald unimaginable achievement, such is the parlous state of present day adversity.
Deploying Yaya upfield would give Mancini the opportunity to allow Javi Garcia to occupy the role for which he was surely intended, anchoring the midfield and protecting City’s immaculate back line.
Captain Vincent Kompany could make a remarkably swift return against a Southampton side that, under the stewardship of tactically savvy Mauricio Pochettino, provides a genuine threat at St Mary’s.
A fully fit Kompany would slip comfortably into any present day World XI, but to play a less than 100% skipper would be inviting trouble against a rampaging Ricky Lambert.
As the Premier League’s highest scoring Englishman, Lambert has continued his excellent rise through the domestic game, scoring prolifically at every level.
Kompany and Nastasic in rude health should be capable of keeping Lambert at bay but he’s sure to give them a run for their money. Unlike City’s defence which, Micah Richards apart, is rapidly returning to fitness, Southampton could be without England U-21 full backs Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne.
Flying wing backs Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta could take advantage as City opt for a more expansive attacking style, sadly lacking in recent weeks.
A lack of width has enabled the opposition to contain the Sky Blues’ attacks down the middle of the park – a major factor in City being 17 goals shy of their haul at this time last season.
Too many draws see City nine points shy of United, but six games unbeaten since Boxing Day, shows how difficult it is for opponents to get the better of the champions – even more so when City score first. 12 wins and two draws are the sum total of games where they have taken the lead.
Edin Dzeko is City’s leading marksman notching five goals in the last six PL games, but there’s always the feeling he could and should do so much better. His drama queen antics, in staying down as Liverpool scored last Sunday, still rankle.
The majority of City fans would prefer the industry of Tevez alongside the darling of the fans, Sergio. Carlito’s eight match barren run must surely draw to a conclusion sooner rather than later, but his goal drought is offset by 13 assists – a valid and critical contribution.
Southampton away is a novelty for Roberto Mancini. With a win percentage of 61% in 122 PL games, Bobby Manc has been fantastically successful with 240 goals scored and 101 conceded. Why oh why do half-baked cretins continue to question his position as manager?
Two unsuccessful Champions League campaigns – one which was massively unlucky – are the only blots of his City career. If he doesn’t merit a third crack at the CL it would be nothing short of scandalous.
He can edge his Sky Blue forces closer to qualification – and who knows – a second title, by plundering three precious points against the Saints – a team that has conceded more points (24) from winning positions, than any other in the PL.
City need it to be a super Saturday to build on thanks to a Sunday, a United defeat against Everton and it all adds up to a happy Monday.