Will Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City be all hot and bothered when they attempt to slay the fiery Welsh dragons of Cardiff City, or will it be all sweetness and light as they knock the tweeting Bluebirds off their perch this coming Sunday?
If Malky Mackay’s newly promoted side embodies the characteristics of one of its elder statesman, one Craig Douglas Bellamy, it could be hotter than a holiday in Cairo in August for the sky blues of Manchester.
Signed by former City boss Mark Hughes, but then shown the door by his new boss Roberto Mancini, Bellamy remains a favourite with Man City fans, who admired his tenacity, industry and commitment – not forgetting his undoubted quality –while plying his trade at the Etihad.
Now 34, ‘Bellers’ still retains a nifty turn of pace and oozes undoubted class and, if fit and selected, could prove a real handful for a Manchester City defence that will be minus it’s central defensive partnership of injured starters Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic.
City have had the meanest defence in the Premier League for the past three seasons, and long may that continue, but one gets the impression that Pellegrini’s football philosophy edges more towards the mantra of ‘…if they score three, we’ll score five…’ i.e. that crazy 45 minutes against AC Milan in the Audi Cup.
If it were to go that way there wouldn’t be many complaints from City fans or neutrals alike, but for all of the grand designs and expansive play, the deployment of wingers of the calibre of Jesus Navas and attacking flair, no team likes to concede at the back.
With Micah Richards extremely doubtful with yet another injury, Pellegrini’s centre back options could be down to two from three of Joleon Lescott, Dedryk Boyata and the versatile, but less than convincing in defence, Javi Garcia.
Ironically City’s defensive ‘crisis’ comes as one of the club’s brightest stars of the future – Dutch prodigy Karim Rekik – on loan at PSV Eindhoven, has just received his first full international call up by The Netherlands.
And as if a fired up Bellamy wasn’t enough, Cardiff will have record signing Gary Medel – a fellow countryman of Pellegrini – making his home debut after his £11m switch from Sevilla.
To describe Medel as combative would be like saying Mario Balotelli was less than introverted or that it can be a bit damp in Manchester in November!
His nickname of ‘El Pitbull’ wasn’t gained lightly – seven red cards in 90 La Liga encounters is testimony to his rough-tough style – and despite being team mates with City’s Navas and Alvaro Negredo at Sevilla last season, there’s little prospect of Medel seeking to take any prisoners.
Medel played in one of the world’s hardest fought local derbies – with Boca Juniors against River Plate – during his time in Argentina, and promises to be a key component if Cardiff are to gain their first Premier League point, or even points.
Cardiff’s new great Dane forward, Andreas Cornelius, will be looking to get his team off the mark, so City’s backline need to step up, despite being somewhat dilapidated.
The manner of City’s majestic 4-0 flattening of Newcastle last Monday night, suggests Pellegrini has a wealth of attacking riches that, as the season develops, should have City’s opponents more pre-occupied with the damage that could be done unto them, rather than on what they might inflict on City’s Joe Hart & Co.
The obvious fragilities of Alan Pardew’s under resourced Magpies aside, City’s performance full of verve and vitality, industry and intensity, bodes well for a second title success in three years.
The power-packed combination of Fernandinho and Yaya Toure looked very promising, while Navas’ wing play was scintillating. Negredo was robbed of a perfectly good debut goal and looks like a natural goalscorer. Dzeko was a man re-born with a new found confidence coursing through his veins, Silva was sublime and Sergio was, well, simply Sergio.
Perhaps we should lobby for the word Aguero to be submitted to the Oxford Dictionary as an adjective meaning; stupendous, wonderful, unsurpassed. His contract extension this summer was as significant as any of the £90m spend on new signings, if not more so.
Lest we forget the maestro from Montenegro, Stevan Jovetic, wasn’t even part of Monday night’s proceedings due to injury, and he could well be involved at Cardiff come the weekend.
It’s sometimes hard to know when is the best time to play a side newly promoted to the top tier of English football?
Do you play them early when they’re a novice, like a new born foal flailing around? Alternatively, the new boys and their fans could be on a natural high as they explore their PL odyssey and come out punching above their weight.
The answer will be forthcoming soon enough for Pellegrini and his galaxy of stars with both Cardiff and the Hull City Tigers (don’t you just love foreign owners who obliterate tradition for commercialism) on the fixture list in the space of a week.
While Gollum the Glaswegian Gargoyle bemoans the PL fixture list for picking on his champions by giving them ‘nasty horrible and hard’ games at the start of the season, a rather regal chap from Chile is getting on with the job of harvesting maximum points…whether facing dragons, bluebirds or tigers.
By David Walker