Forget manifestos and election slogans, the Premier League’s top two MPs aren’t interested in votes on Saturday lunchtime…just three precious points.
Manuel Pellegrini and Mauricio Pochettino both want to be first past the post as Manchester City look to hold on to their overwhelming majority of recent times, having won six of the last seven PL encounters, including four on the bounce at the Etihad.
It’s a massive turnaround for City who used to be easy perennial prey for Spurs until Roberto Mancini sparked a change in fortunes, continued in style by City’s trusted MP last season, with thumping 6-0 and 5-1 victories.
In 11 PL and cup encounters in Manchester between 2001-2010 City, under Joe Royle, Kevin Keegan, Stuart Pearce, Sven Goran Eriksson and Mark Hughes managed one win, two draws and eight defeats…the term Indian sign didn’t even come close.
I once chatted with ex-Spurs keeper Paul Robinson who said the men from White Hart Lane used to refer to the then City of Manchester Stadium and more latterly, the Etihad, as Three Point Park.
How times have change. City have plundered the spoils every time since Peter Crouch’s own goal paved the way for City’s first entry into the Champions League in May 2011.
Such a contrast to the previous year when the gangly striker had scored the winner to put Spurs into the CL at City’s expense.
It’s not do-or-die this time around with just seven games played, but if City were to stumble to a second league defeat of 2014-15 and go three games without a home win – the first time since November 2010 – it would cast grave doubts on them retaining their status as Champions.
Pellegrini received a selection boost when Yaya Toure arrived back in Manchester a day ahead of schedule, following Ivory Coast’s shock 4-3 defeat in the African Cup of Nations qualifying round.
The Ivorian colossus missed City’s 2-2 draw against Spurs’ North London rivals, Arsenal, again a Saturday lunch time kick off after the last international break, when he didn’t join up with the team until the Friday morning.
Credit to the much maligned Yaya for obviously putting in the effort to get back early enough to be in contention.
An added bonus from a City perspective is that the Ivory Coast is far from certain to qualify for the finals in January and February.
Any hiccups against Sierra Leone and Cameroon in November could see Yaya available for a number of key fixtures against the likes of Everton, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Speculation surrounding the postponement of the Finals because of the deadly Ebola outbreak has so far amounted to nothing so, on a totally selfish basis, City fans will be backing the Ivory Coast’s opponents.
Apart from the post surgical Samir Nasri, only Eliaquim Mangala is unavailable for selection, having picked up a thigh strain while with the French squad. Fernandinho has seemingly overcome the hamstring strain that saw him exit early at Villa Park and fears over Stevan Jovetic have been quelled.
It’ll be a big boost to the home team if Spurs are missing a key Frenchman in the form of keeper Hugo Lloris, who also picked up an injury on international duty. The lively Belgian midfielder, Nacer Chadli, currently Spurs’ top scorer with four PL goals is also facing a fitness fight.
Ex-City striker Emmanuel Adebayor is likely to be available, but whether he makes the starting XI is down to Pochettino. Forever an enigmatic figure Adebayor, on his day is a top class player, capable of winning a game with a flash of brilliance.
City will be hoping to see the ‘other’ Adebayor – the lazy, languid version who couldn’t strike a match, let alone work up a sweat.
The irony of the day is that City’s imperious home form of recent seasons, the platform for two titles in three years, has still to kick in with just one win in a trio of PL outings.
It’s three away wins and the draw at The Emirates that has so far kept Pellegrini’s men in touching distance of leaders Chelsea.
That’s in stark contrast with Spurs who have just three wins in their last 11 PL away days. Prior to this they had won five consecutive league matches on the road.
Pochettino already has Spurs looking more like a team than either of his predecessors, Tim Sherwood or Andre Villas Boas, who suffered maulings of 5-1 and 6-0 last season.
Pellegrini is adamant things will be closer – much closer this time out, especially as City have still to hit their full stride pattern.
The return of Fernando will add an effective shield in front of City’s back four, where Demichelis will line up alongside Vincent Kompany.
Pellegrini knows he cannot afford to drop points against Spurs but, he will be ever mindful of Tuesday’s behind-closed-doors Champions League match up with CSKA Moscow.
His full back selection will be interesting with Zabaleta, Sagna, Clichy and Kolarov vying for places.
James Milner should start and, as the Englishman gets ever more playing minutes, it looks as if he will commit himself to a new long term deal at the Etihad – great news for the Blues.
Sergio Aguero, with six goals already this season and five in five games against Spurs since joining City in 2011, will be looking to maintain his scoring ratios, while Edin Dzeko, fresh from a goal for Bosnia Herzegovina against Wales should partner the Argentine goal machine, if Pellegrini goes with his preferred 4-4-2.
Unlike some of his more established rivals, such as Moanrinho and Whinger, City’s cool Chilean has a healthy respect for the man who bears the same initials.
He knows Pochettino from his time in La Liga, managing Espanyol and witnessed his achievements with Southampton last season.
Both MPs share a similar philosophy and adhere to standards of behaviour and levels of decorum, recently lacking among the likes of Maureen and Arsenic.
The football should do the talking without the need for any pushing, shoving or verbal sparring…a welcome change from the technical area antics of some managers, not forgetting the puerile nonsense oft spouted by the other MPs of this country.
By David Walker
A proposal for Manchester City FC to honour the bravery and humanitarian work of Alan Henning is presently being discussed by the Club with Alan’s family.
Kevin Parker, General Secretary of the Manchester City Official Supporters Club, issued a statement earlier this week saying a minute of silence or applause was most likely to happen at City’s Capital One Cup tie with Newcastle United on October 29th.
Read But Never Red is not privy to the private discussions between MCFC and Alan’s loved ones, so it behoves us all to be respectful, and hopefully get an opportunity to acknowledge Alan’s courage and heroism at the appointed date and hour.
It appears Alan was a Blue but his tragic death transcends any football allegiance. It doesn’t matter if he was a City fan, a United supporter or a fan of any other club in Greater Manchester…he was a Mancunian and the whole of Manchester should pay tribute to one of their own.
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu