With silverware in sight will it be a case of all change once again when Manchester City, fresh from beating Bayern Munich and annihilating Arsenal, come into this Capital One Cup quarter final?
As City build momentum in their drive to sit aloft the Premier League on New Year’s Day, Manuel Pellegrini is likely to be ringing the changes at the King Power Stadium, for what promises to be a bit of a ding-dong with Leicester City.
X-Factor winner Sam Bailey will be adding her vocals to a vociferous home support, hoping Nigel Pearson’s Championship challenging Foxes can somehow stop the Sky Blues, who have triumphed in all four of their away cup fixtures this season.
City’s cup successes at Newcastle, Plzen, CSKA Moscow and that sensational comeback victory in the Allianz Arena, is in stark contrast with their fitful league form away from Fortress Etihad.
Four defeats and two draws in eight PL away days will be a source of some encouragement for Leicester, as will the statistic that shows in the past five seasons no less than six non-Premier League teams have reached the semi finals.
For the PL ‘big boys’ it’s a question of priorities and Pellegrini’s are firmly set on both the Premier League and the Champions League. That said, if a game’s worth playing it’s worth winning and, even with wholesale changes, the men from Manchester will still start as favourites.
Last time out Pellegrini made eight changes…and ended up beating the European Champions after being 2-0 down inside 12 minutes – not too shabby.
Joe Hart will return in goal after a trio of more than competent performances in the Champions League and Capital One Cup, following his highly publicised axing from City’s Premier League First XI.
Romanian giant, Costel Pantilimon has played well enough in seven consecutive PL games conceding at the rate of one per game, principally due to Arsenal putting three past him last Saturday lunchtime.
Opinions are divided as to if, and when, Hart should be restored to the number one spot. Indeed, there is constant speculation as to whether Pellegrini will be active in the transfer market in January or the summer, to bring in a permanent replacement for the England goalkeeper.
Hopefully that won’t materialise, albeit Hart would benefit from a strong challenger for his job to help him achieve the form that so impressed in City’s title winning campaign in 2011/12.
Pellegrini has a plethora of players from which to assemble a team capable of reaching the semi finals and, at the same time, keeping his preferred options fresh for Fulham.
Likely changes would see Aleksander Kolarov, Joleon Lescott, Dedryk Boyata, Jack Rodwell, Javi Garcia, Edin Dzeko, Stevan Jovetic, James Milner and even Marcos Lopes start the game.
If that were the case the Leicester team could look over at a Manchester City bench that would frighten the life out of even the cream of Europe, with the likes of Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Samir Nasri, Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas and Pablo Zabaleta possibly being held in reserve, if needed.
When Pellegrini succeeded Roberto Mancini in the summer he was very publicly told that City had an expectation of five trophies in five years. Well silverware is silverware, but five Capital One Cups in isolation – or whatever they are called every third season, Carling, Worthington, Rumbelows, Milk etc – would hardly go down a storm in Abu Dhabi.
Clearly that is not the expectation and Pellegrini has quietly and meticulously instilled his playing style and philosophies into the mindset of his players. His mantra of City playing in the same fashion, irrespective of personnel, is very encouraging if you’re of the sky blue persuasion.It is reflective of the ‘holistic’ approach that so many of City’s detractors sought to ridicule when Mancini was replaced. City teams, from the kids to the first team will adopt a pattern of play – a signature style – to help players progress in a stable and consistent fashion.
It’s not unique, neither is it rocket science. It’s the template on which Barcelona and Bayern Munich – giants both, among European football’s elite – have built their dynastic success. How ironic that City have just beaten one of them and intend to beat the other, as they strive for Champions League Final glory in Lisbon next May.
But first things first – it’s not ‘L’ for Lisbon it’s ‘L’ for Leicester and Manchester City don’t want one ‘L’ of an embarrassment in an X-rated horror show.
By David Walker
The MCFC Official Supporters Club, East Midlands Branch are playing host to up to 650 travelling City fans at two locations prior to tonight’s game, namely the Black Horse Pub at 65 Narrow Lane, Aylestone in the earlier part of the afternoon, and then later at the Old Aylestone Social Club in Middlehurst Street, also in Aylestone.
For my sins I have one extra ticket available for tonight’s match but it would require collection from North Worcestershire and. given the timing at a reduced price below that of face value. If interested tweet me @djwskyblu