Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Post Newcastle / Pre-Barcelona

Apologies for the lack of any post-Newcastle game Blog-posting on Sunday; I don’t always do a next-day piece but the fine performance & result certainly warranted one.

Instead, I thought I’d do a fairly brief ‘combo’…

Twisting my melon!

Aleks Kolarov AND Edin Dzeko both having very good games at the same time? I thought someone had put something in my beer!
Despite the Manchester Evening News’ slightly negative comments and rather harsh 6/10 for the left back, I thought he had a really good game – and regular readers will, quite rightly, see that as very high praise indeed!

His attacking play is rarely in question – although for me sometimes exaggerated in it’s effectiveness – and, strangely on this occasion, wasn’t the best part of his game against the Geordies. He got himself in advanced, overlapping positions alright but around 50% (not an official ‘stat’) of his crosses were either wayward or were blocked. But it was his defending that was noticeably much better; probably one of the best I’ve seen from the Serbian.

And it both pleased and frustrated the hell out of me (those words in themselves sum up the fella) that we saw what was, for me, a solid 8.5/10 performance from Mr E. Nigma (Edin Dzeko if you really needed to ask).

Pleasing to see him run and run…and run for the entire time he was on the pitch; pleasing to see him being able to control the ball, pleasing to see him being able to link-up and KEEP up with play and that of his teammates and pleasing to see him score a crackin’ goal! I did more than suggest that this might happen before the game but it still leaves me asking…why the HELL does it take the threat from the incoming & sideline-watching Wilfried Bony to light the Bosnian’s fire?!

Joe pulled off a tremendous save from a cracking shot from Papiss Cisse; Vinny had his best game since his return from injury and even Eliaquim had a solid 7/10’er. Pablo was ‘back’ too! What a performance from the Argentine battleship! In fact if it wasn’t for such fine performance elsewhere on the pitch he could quite easily have taken many people’s MotM.

Fernandinho continued his largely inconsistent form…by producing a fine covering role and working really well with the very impressive Yaya; and both David & Samir were simply magical. Aguero is definitely revving right up now too! I even recall remarking how quite-dazzling Jesus was when he came on for a very lively 31+ minutes.

I’m certainly not getting carried away but you can just tell that confidence and a refreshed look is sweeping through the team at this highly crucial stage of the season. Looks great from our angle; must look quite concerning for the forlorn-looking Mourinho and his nervous-looking team. Good to see Manyoo pegged back last weekend too…

And so on to Barca

Once again regular readers won’t be surprised to see me say that this piece in the Manchester Evening News sums it up quite perfectly for me. I like the Champions League; as a club we NEED the Champions League. I want us to progress past the Spanish giants…but I’m also very realistic and quite grounded about it all too.

Should we do ourselves proud and beat Messi & Co. over 2 legs then…fantastic! But that’s where our run in this competition will probably end, won’t it? We’re good; we’re bloomin’ good…but we’re just not quite with ‘the elite’ just yet.

Providing a strong challenge, as we are doing by progressing beyond the group stages, is a very good thing but we need some domestic consistency and, for me, retaining the title and then pushing on even FURTHER in domestic dominance is where we need to be aiming for.

I don’t want our players pushing themselves SO hard in these battles that the wheels then come off our pursuit of retaining the Premier League.

Sure enough if we are able to do the F(not-so)FP maths correctly in the summer and bring in 3 or 4 crackin’ stars to swell our ranks then I would fully anticipate us to push on even further in the Champions League next season. I’ll then probably even jump on the Champions League ‘expect wagon’ - with those already on board – but not until the 2016/17 season.

Predicted line-up, subs & outcome…












Subs: Caballero, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Milner, Lampard, Dzeko, Bony.

Hart to start, Clichy to come in [for Kolarov] and, I think, likewise Sagna for Zabaleta. Why? Well both have Champions League experience aplenty but not only did Pablo play a full 90+ minutes just 72 hours earlier; I think that, despite being 2 years older, the French right back has the edge in terms of pace, which will be very important this evening. Clichy is just a better defender than Kolarov.

Kompany, of course, and although I was trying (of course) to gauge our manager’s thinking in possibly deciding to pick the far-more-experienced Demichelis; once again pace won the day in my guess work. Mangala to continue his partnership with ‘our skip’.

Fernando to sit right in front of the back 4 and, hopefully, use those telescopic legs of his to full and good effect; Fernandinho not TOO far ahead of him in more of a duel role of ‘protect & support’.

Then an out & out attacking quartet of creativity, goals and, here’s that word again, pace.

Excellent cover one the bench in all Departments. Most notable is the fit again (apparently) James Milner and the absence of the suspended Yaya Toure.

Result? Huh…what a crackin’ and somewhat frightening line-up they have! Recent market value reports suggest that their 3 main attackers alone in Messi, Neymar and Suarez almost double the value of our entire squad! I thought it was we who was ruining football?

But I’m going for a narrow home victory tonight and although I’d certainly take a quite-possible 2-1’er; 1-0 would be better.

Get your neck & shoulder guards on fellas – guess who coming to dinner…


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