Take a retrospective look at the end of the season and one can only hope this proved to be a battle of the domestic cup winners – Swansea with their Capital One trophy and City, proud six-times FA Cup victors.
For Roberto Mancini’s men it should read ‘Capital Punishment’ Cup after their ignominious exit from the competition in a horror showing against Aston Villa – one of a few too many occasions when MCFC went MIA – Missing In Action.
They did so last year when a 1-0 defeat on their debut visit to the Liberty Stadium handed the impetus to Manure in the title duel. Thankfully the rest is history.
Part of the challenge today is to maintain a focus on the need for seven more points – as things stand – to secure an important runners-up slot, and not be distracted by next weekend’s Cup Final.
It’s a careful balancing act that Mancini must master – how bad would it be if messrs Silva, Aguero, Yaya or Kompany were crocked before the big showpiece? It’ll be the same scenario against WBA on Tuesday night but the Italian knows how to juggle his team selection and, with a virtually fully fit squad, still achieve the desired outcomes.
Maybe the time is right for the re-appearance of Jack Rodwell and Micah Richards, a rare outing for Scott Sinclair on his return to his former team, or even a chance for Kolo Toure to have a farewell match before his Etihad departure?
An overwhelming majority of City fans want Mancini to remain at the helm when the 2013/14 season kicks off – irrespective of a Wembley win against Wigan – so it’s a tad disheartening that there is still no word from Sheikh Mansour on Bobby’s future.
For that reason alone, it will do Mancini no harm at all to take maximum points from the remaining four fixtures – that would be 83 and represent City’s second highest haul in the Premier League.
Admittedly it all feels a bit like a damp squib with the objective of retaining the title long gone, but it’ll be a test of the player’s professionalism to see if they can end the season on a high.
Ironically, City are the form team in the PL, taking 18 points from the last 24. It coincides with the re-emergence of Samir Nasri who has four assists in his last five games, punctuated by two goals in his last four appearances.
It’s sparked talk of the Frenchman being a ‘vital part’ of City’s future plans, with Patrick Vieira and David Platt singing his praises. What were the odds on that two months ago when City fans were encouraged by talk of PSG paying £20million for the errant midfielder?
The Nasri that City thought they were getting in the summer of 2011 is worth retaining. On his day he is capable of turning a match, but too often he has lived up to the legendary status of City’s fabled ‘Invisible Man’.
There’s no doubt Mancini is going to shake up his underperforming squad, and Txiki Begiristain seems to be the man to deliver the precious personnel to take City back to the summit of English football.
Cavani, Reus, Isco and Fernandinho are four of the names who gather more and more credence everyday as the transfer speculation mounts. Each one would offer an upgrade on the present squad and show the world that this season is nothing more than a UEFA FFP-induced blip.
City won’t be delaying until transfer deadline day and ‘making do’ this summer – no sir. The Blue Moon will hit a trajectory, hitherto never seen before and send City into an orbit of domestic domination.
Today’s match should see Joe Hart retain his number one jersey, despite the worrying muscle spasm that afflicted him against West Ham, contributing to the conceding of Andy Carroll’s soft last minute consolation goal.
With Joe set to make way for Costel Pantilimon at Wembley – more a reward from the Romanian rather than a punishment for the English keeper – it hasn’t been an outstanding year for Hart.
Undoubtedly the country’s best – and I wouldn’t swap him for any other keeper the world over – Joe has, at times had lapses which have led to the opposition scoring.
There’s lies, damned lies and statistics and the anoraks at Opta have Joe down as being culpable for five errors leading to goals. It speaks volumes that he’s still odds on for the Golden Glove Award – the third successive season that he’ll have kept the highest number of shut outs.
He’ll be looking to keep another clean sheet against a Swansea team who could – metaphorically – have hit the beach a few weeks ago.
The Swans have won just one of seven PL games since lifting the Capital One Trophy, so one can only hope that City can keep their wings clipped.
A ninth away win of the season would at least secure a Champions League slot – the bare minimum requirement – when City started out last August.
The availability of Milner, Silva and Aquero after their chequered fitness in recent weeks is welcome. Whether any of them start today remains to be seen.
It’s an eminently winnable fixture and one that would warm the hearts of the sky blues’ travelling support who would like nothing more than a welcome in the valleys…well the Gower Peninsula but you get the drift.
FORZA MANCINI like never before!