Thursday, 20 February 2014

Shame…now let’s get back to ‘bread & butter’

From Barcelona to Stoke Citywhat a come-down hey? Barca were sublime; sadly a real joy to watch at times. But I thought we did ourselves proud; that was certainly no one-sided game and it wasn’t helped by inconsistent refereeing…although I stop well short of how far Pellegrini went [claiming a lack of referee impartiality and experience] the silly man.

No excuses required

The referee was bad…very bad in fact. And having seen the incident again and again (having thought it WAS a penalty on the night) I’m convinced now that it wasn’t a penalty; the fouling contact was outside the box. But rather than not being impartial, the poor-performing referee was simply very inconsistent throughout the game; he didn’t punish a couple of incidents committed by our players either.

We played well against a very, VERY good team (regardless of Jose’s interfering & ill-judged comments about the current Barca team). And regardless of whether it was a penalty or not; it was a sending off. So 10 men against Barcelona - having gone 1-0 down with the resulting penalty - and no-one would have seen anything other than an inevitable defeat. But even THEN we had our chances to pull ourselves back into it! We – and the players – should be very proud.

Will we have a chance in Camp Nou? Well of course there’s always a chance and I think we’ll be stronger in the second leg too. But even with (hopefully) a fitter Fernandinho, Nasri and Aguero available it’s probably not quite enough to pull it back.

One quick work on the fan mosaic last Tuesday night. Well done City for the effort (and well done those City fans for coming up with the idea). I’ve personally never been involved in one of those before (well perhaps once but I can’t quite recall the detail nor occasion) but…I didn’t think much of it; it could have been a lot better don’t you think?

I’m sorry to sound critical but nearly every other one I’ve seen have looked MILES more impressive, including the more-recent one at Arsenal when they hosted Bayern Munich...

Was it the floppy, black-bin-bag-like material used? Were a lot of fans not holding them up correctly? The Champions League cup in the West (Colin Bell) Stand looked like it had been drawn by a child and “Blue Moon” in the North (Family) Stand sort of looked more like “Blue Hoon” at first glance! I’m not sure what the design was in my (East) Stand – I still can’t quite make it out from this video. Is it the moon?

Let’s move on…

v Stoke City

Straight to it then – predicted line-up time:

Formation: 4-4-2 (4-4-1-1)









Premier League – Hart to start.

I think he’ll go with the (surely now) recognised strongest back 4.

A good, 70+ minute workout for Fernandinho is just what the Doctor ordered; Nasri’s first start since his return is likely and Yaya & Silva complete the creativity in the middle.

I think more than likely he’ll stick Jovetic up front with Negredo; I think even Pellegrini can see what most of us can about the Alvaro / Edin combo…

I don’t think he’ll stick too many defending players on the bench on Saturday but this might be partly influenced by the sheer number of decent, more-attacking options he’ll have at his disposal in this must-win home game. Kolarov & Demichelis should get a pitch-side view along with Pantilimon but after that; the mid-week rested Milner and Navas, who’ll probably ‘drop’ to make way for the David / Samir combo.

Alongside that lot should be Dzeko and…AGUERO (see update below)! For some time I had secretly ‘penned in’ our Argentinean battleship for this game and there are now murmurs that he might well make an appearance from the bench against The Potters. There might be a good argument to keep him clear of the team that holds a reputation for ‘clogging’ the opposition but hopefully by the time he DOES come on [about 75 minutes] they’ll have been run ragged so much they’ll be too knackered to even attempt a silly lunge.

Update (22.02.2014 - 5:49pm): Pellegrini states that Sergio Aguero is not quite ready and might resume full training in mid-week ahead of the League Cup final.

Result? Hughes will certainly have them organised and ‘fired up’ for it but in the end, it should count for nothing - an eventual & comfortable home win.

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