Whether or not it was because, on Sunday 27th April 2014, we’d just witnessed ‘that’ slip from ‘Stevie G’, which let a certain Demba Ba in to send Chelsea 1-0 up in a game that Liverpool eventually lost at home 2-0; we then headed into a ‘must win’ game at Selhurst Park with nerves being replaced by a sense of optimism.
That was on the back of a very inconsistent time for us throughout March & April 2014 – the previous six games showing on the board as, W: 3 D: 2 L: 1 (to
Liverpool). , although within
a chance of winning the league themselves at the time, did us a HUGE favour that day…and it was then
up to us to do ‘our part’. Chelsea
We started brightly and sure enough…BANG! Edin Dzeko does what he does “best” and scored a vital goal in at a vital time in a vital game. 54% overall possession and 16 shots to their 3 away from home; we were playing with a swagger and a confidence.
Yaya added at second at another vital time just before the interval on 43 minutes and although a 3rd goal in the second half would have calmed any remaining nerves that day, we played with our chests out and weren’t for letting this opportunity slip away.
More nerves were to come of course – I recall swirling butterflies aplenty in our 2-3 victory (again courtesy of ‘that man for the moment’ Dzeko) at bogey ground / side Everton before a real WOW result two days later; as the very same
blasted-in 3 goals in just 9, game-changing minutes to mount an impressive 3-3
comeback to all-but-kill Liverpool’s title
Now although our chances of winning the title this season appear to be a little more difficult – trailing
as we do by 6 points and having
played a game more before a ball is even kicked this Easter
weekend - it’s hard not to look at Monday night’s game and see a scenario
not too dissimilar. Chelsea
It’s Liverpool who could do us a favour this weekend by taking a point or more off 3rd-place Arsenal at the Emirates today and as for Villa at Scaffold Trafford and later-in-the-day Stoke at Stamford Bridge; well…stranger things have happened in football.
The involvement of Crystal Palace in last season’s title run-in against Liverpool should serve as a warning to us this time that they are (or certainly were under their previous manager Tony Pulis) capable of causing an upset.
The fact that we ARE, more realistically, in a 3-way battle for 2nd place now – and could even be 4th before our trip to
Monday night - should also act as added motivation to take all 3,
desperately-needed points before a certain / Trafford derby the following weekend. Manchester
And as the home crowd can most definitely act as a 12th man these days, it’s even more important that we attempt to ‘blow them out of the water’ early on as we did almost 12 months ago.
According to our manager, apart from a few ‘niggles’ to watch over the next 48 hours we have a fully fit squad and although he won’t directly admit it; the extra couple of days rest should give us a slight advantage following the international break; allowing more ‘prep’ & assessment time (although the last time we had a fully fit squad and seemingly had a more-restful advantage it was Mr Pellegrini's tactics that failed us; as we lost a vital game to Liverpool on 1st March 2015).
– 8:00pm KO BST) Crystal
Predicted line-up, subs and outcome…
4-4-2 / 4-1-3-2:
Hart in net.
Probably our strongest back-4 there.
Having been one of ‘the 7’ to remain at home during the international break - and with a personal promise a week or so ago to use the time to get his fitness levels right up following a ‘injury blip’ season - I’ve gone for our manager to choose Fernando as the deeper, ‘protecting’ midfielder. 3 ahead of him in Nasri (assuming his head is right), Toure (assuming HIS head & motivation is right) and, of course, Silva.
And it’s 2 ‘up top’…and I think that’ll be the rested Bony alongside Aguero rather than midweek hat-trick hero (against
then angry (against ) Dzeko. Austria
Kolarov for a change of left-sided shape / more attacking option and Mangala as central cover; Lampard & Milner as ‘the dependables’ in the middle of the park, Navas for a (literal) change of pace…and Dzeko if “needed”.
Result? As I’ve already more than hinted; if we go into this game with the wrong attitude and / or, for whatever other reason, go into this noisy, night-time-floodlit arena and are slow to start then I think they’ll get ‘at us’…and get in front. I think we’ll then struggle and later flap towards the end – as I’ve seen us do all-too-often this season – and will have to scrap like crazy just to get a very disappointing point.
Go into this from the start with a refreshed look and a determination to ‘right some season wrongs’ and I think we’ll win this one by 2 goals or more.
I’m banking on the latter – it’s a City win…and that’s the way we like it, we like it, we like it...
And let’s hope also that ‘potty mouth’, ageist Alan Pardew can control himself in the opposite technical area to our manager on Monday night…