Saturday, 29 November 2014

Saints alive! Tough…and very important game is this one.

Whisper it…but we may be about to pick up some momentum. Two very different but difficult teams in the last week; two very different circumstances and two wins. Everything crossed for that to continue on the South coast on Sunday afternoon.


A few words on the Bayern game

Firstly, apologies for not posting a post-Bayern Munich game Blog. I don’t always do a post-match entry; mostly due to time constraints and that, I’m afraid, was the case again this week. So…a few bullet-pointed notes from last Tuesday.
  • It was good to see the UEFA Champions League theme being roundly booed by both sets of fans; good to see the Bayern “Respect the fans” banners go up and good to see those who, like me, turned their backs to the pitch during the anthem.
  • The Munich fans were their usual, noisy, orchestrated and persistent selves. It was nice to dampen them down somewhat towards the end.
  • As is usual against European opposition our fans were a shadow of theirs - quiet for the most part and then boring, predictable and uninventive in whatever song we managed to squeak out on the rare occasions we could be bothered. As Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Portsmouth fans seem to be able to raise and organise themselves, we can’t even use the excuse that it’s just an “British thing”. It’s quite sad really. We need to get some new songs; we then need to continue to create new ones, we need to coordinate…and we need to GET SINGING!
  • What a team Bayern are! And…WOWPep doesn’t half get ‘em organised and fit. I look at their performance against us last Tuesday and heap even MORE praise on them when I look at the players they had out and, of course, in that they went down to 10 men quite early on…and then went from 0-1 to 2-1 before half time. Just phenomenal and, so…
  • …we have to give ourselves a huge amount of credit for overcoming a side that, let’s face it, didn’t LOOK like they were a man down for the most part. Of course Sergio was immense; a 10/10 showing if ever there was one. But I have to also note a marked improvement in Mangala and good displays also from Clichy & Sagna at the back. Fernando too looked a little more settled than of late and I thought Lampard and Navas had good games too. That’s why I was utterly aghast at the Manchester Evening News’ player ratings! What the hell?! Bayern were - and ARE - the better side but the amount of 5/10s from the Manchester paper suggest that we were completely out of the game and were run ragged for the whole game; unable to cope at all with the German champions. It may have taken them losing (once City target) Mehdi Benatia but we held our own and more in the end. We did win 3-2 after all…

Back to ‘bread & butter’

The very same paper picked up on this fact just yesterday – it’s red & white stripe week for City. Rarely do we come away from Southampton, Stoke City or Sunderland with anything and we have two of those sides in just 3 days!
And to add to the bizarre case of red & white stripe phobia; before we travel to the North East to face a Sunderland side who have ‘stopped the rot’ with a win and two draws (Update: Now a win a 3 draws thanks to a 0-0'er against Chelsea); we face a Southampton team who are drawing some well-deserved, positive attention with a league record in the last 10 games that reads:
Won: 8
Drawn: 1
Lost: 1
Ronald Koeman was forced to sell in the summer and sell big. However, he forged ahead with haste and brought in players he knew well and they hit the ground running that’s for sure. They sit second…but a City win at St Mary’s (1:30pm KO GMT) and we swap places.
This is a key, psychological game for us.

v Southampton

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome…
4-5-1 (4-2-3-1):
Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Demichelis, Lampard, Nasri, Pozo, Jovetic
Consistency in selection is, for me, the key here…
Despite some press-suggested criticism after the midweek ‘goals against’ in the Champions League – something Manuel Pellegrini quite rightly deflected and said he wouldn’t discuss in public – Joe to start again on the South coast.
It may well be “forced”, this one, but despite some awful displays; Gael Clichy’s forced run in the side [due to Aleks Kolarov’s continued injury] appears to be paying dividends. He’s settling down a little and making improvements, which is all you can ask. Another go in the defensive ‘unit’ can only, surely, continue this improvement.
I was SO tempted to suggest that our manager might go with the rested Demichelis for this one…and I might well be wrong in not going with that feeling. However, I also believe that our manager might look at the improvement against the Germans as a turning point for Mangala…and also agree with me that the powerful French defender has to have a run of Premier League games at SOME point. He needs to bond with his defensive colleagues – particularly Clichy to his left – and so with regulars Hart, Kompany and Zabaleta also likely to be starting against The Saints; for me Eliaquim ‘gets the nod’.
Similarly with Fernando & Fernandinho. Where possible - and on occasions that warrant it - I believe our manager always had intentions of using these two together. Like his ex-Porto colleague behind him, Fernando also needs ‘game time’…and I see him as an extension to the defence and, therefore, also needs to ‘bed in’ with his colleagues ASAP. Fernandinho rested [through European suspension] and so starts.
Yaya managed a rest for the very same reason in midweek and, so too, starts on Sunday.
I initially stuck Nasri on the left…and then swapped him. I think Milner will be chomping at the bit for this one (isn’t he always?) and that this game will suit him. The steadily improving (again) Navas to add HIS energy and pace to the right and, of course, ‘the battleship’ up front.
It’s a strong bench considering we’re without 3 regulars; not least David Silva.
Good defensive options in Martin and Bacary and Frank ‘in there’ in case needed for a 20 to 25-minute, game-changing role.
Dropping Nasri on the bench also gives us that creative change of tack (and leaves him fresher for Sunderland) and Pozo continues to get a role on the side-line.
I’ve gone for our manager to choose a 4-5-1 / 4-2-3-1 not only because we’re away from home to a dangerous side but, also, with Jovetic our only other main forward available (no disrespect intended to the EDS player); I think he’ll want that ‘change of option’ rather than starting with both (only) aces from the start.
Result? This could well be just pre-game, built-up optimism from me…but I’ve gone ‘n’ changed my thinking from a draw to a City win in the last couple of days. I just feel that we have our ‘tails up’ now and that the players are starting to get back their belief & confidence once again.
They appeared, in recent weeks, to be suffering from a lack of conviction both in their own abilities and that of their teammates; we’re starting to look like a team again and a continuation of that on Sunday – despite the tough opposition – will see us come out on top.

In other news…

EDS Midfielder Seko Fofana has joined Fulham on a short loan to 31st January 2015. He has not been named in the squad for their trip to Brighton & Hove Albion this weekend. Update correction: Came on as a sub on 63 minutes. Oooops...
Jordi Hiwula, however, has returned from a rather unsuccessful short spell with Yeovil Town. The EDS striker played 8 times scoring only once (in the F.A. Cup) and had a couple of unflattering reports whilst with The Glovers.

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