‘Job all-but done’ would be words I’d love to both hear and read after tonight’s game.
With us-playing our second leg at home just short of 3-½ days after our away game at Norwich City and just over 4-½ before a certain Manchester v Trafford derby; it would be nice not-to-have-to ‘go hell for leather’ in the second of our 2 games against Dynamo Kyiv in order to progress to the quarter finals of the Champions League.
RESTED v rested
Most of our ‘first teamers’ will not have played a competitive match for just over 10 days when the referee blows his whistle to indicate the start of the match tonight. At this stage of the season that sounds like an amazing statistic…and one brought about by a much needed and bold decision from our Engineer, Manuel Pellegrini.
It was a decision that has sparked furore amongst some – so much so, in fact, it appears to have-now completely overshadowed any level of criticism a certain Manyoo Football Club got for completely removing their team from the F.A. Cup in 2000 (sanctioned / approved by the Football Association) for, instead, a FIFA World Club Championship tournament…a glorified friendly competition.
Mr Shearer, representing the so-called impartial BBC, was very forthright indeed in his opinion about the fact that we had included, in our squad for our F.A. Cup clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last Sunday afternoon, 7 EDS players. We HAD, he blustered, disrespected the competition.
He did this with absolutely no mention whatsoever that we had Eliaquim Mangala, Bacary Sagna, Kevin De Bruyne, Fabian Delph, Samir Nasri, Jesus Navas and Wilfried Bony all out injured. Where was the balanced viewpoint? Where, if neutrals had tuned in all over the world not-knowing those facts about our football club, was the information in order to give a true and whole picture of our situation? All of those players apart from Eliaquim Mangala, by the way Mr failed, ex-manager of Newcastle United, are STILL out for tonight’s game…
So…with the F.A. having it within their power to grant us a Saturday fixture and, therefore, allowing us more rest, travel and preparation time for our trip to the Ukraine but chose not to; does that same failed, ex-manager of Newcastle United that he-helped to relegate - and failed job applicant for the manager’s job at Cardiff City – not believe that our manager had to-then ‘pick his battles’ and make a very shrewd decision by resting our star players who WEREN’T actually out injured? Clearly not…and he continued, unabated, to be outraged that we had dared to start 5 promising young players from our academy (so that’s 6 first-team players who started last Sunday) against last season’s Premier League Champions…and who managed to hold them on their own ground at half time 1-1 [in an eventual 5-1 defeat].
And if you wanted the BBC to add more insult to injury then, on the pitch, was ex-Chelsea man Graeme Le Saux. Now I have heard that within the world of football players the Jersey-born man was considered to be very intelligent. Perhaps so…and intelligence doesn’t, I suppose, include being “wise” enough to realise that you are, like Alan sat in the studio, representing the BBC and are, therefore, supposed to at least TRY to be a little impartial. He couldn’t have been less so as he tried to hide his Chelsea shirt under his more-formal, outer wear…
Seething? Yeah you could say that – enough for me to not-only comment several times about the pair on the WEB pages of the Manchester Evening News but also lodge an official complaint on-line to the BBC and Tweet Mr Shearer himself.
I’m (mostly) over it now…and I digress too.
So…where was I? Oh yeah, RESTED v rested. Our lads have had a good ol’ break and lots of preparation time for this important fixture in our club’s history-making venture…but so have Kyiv. In fact, the home side haven’t played a competitive match since 9th December 2015! Instead they started a series of friendly matches in their winter-break period – a whopping 13 in fact (where’s “the break”?) - as they attempt to warm themselves up for the second part of their season; starting with us.
Will that have helped them? Will the rest period and gap to allow injured players to return go in their favour tonight? Will they come back / start a little rusty? To be honest…I’ve no idea.
But what I DO know is that, for whatever reason, our top starts who HAVEN’T been seeing more of the physio room than the training pitch in recent weeks (and months) have-themselves looked a little jaded and, some have commented, nowhere near fit enough. That being the case – and although it’s hardly been a winter break as such – those 10 days without a game should energise them ahead of tonight’s game, followed by a trip to a League Cup final on Sunday and then a Premier League game at Anfield in 7-days’ time.
v Dynamo Kyiv
Predicted line-up, subs and outcome…
Hart back in net (thank God)!
Joe + Gael, Vinny, Nicholas and ‘go again’ Pablo is probably about the strongest defence we can muster and, so, apart from Zaba having to play again following 90+ minutes on Sunday; we have a fully rested and robust (on paper at least) rear-guard thanks to our manager’s forced choices (take note Mr Shearer).
It’s probably ‘go again’ also for Fernando in-protected that back-line and just ahead of him in a ‘duel role’ that should include lots of attacking support, is Fernandinho. Yaya should play in a similar role to the latter-named Brazilian and out on the flanks both pace & craft from two in-need of their recent respite (Raheem & David).
Serge to surge forward with the support of his attacking colleagues.
Willy back on the bench (thank God). Aleks, the returning Eliaquim and Martin make up the defensive insurance, although Martin could be used in a defensive midfield role at some point. Manu Garcia & Brandon Barker likely to make up the more-attacking midfield replacement options (at the risk of more Alan Shearer wrath for daring to disrespect THIS competition by possibly selecting 2 youth players) and Kelechi our back-up striker.
Notable absences: Already covered in this piece.
Do I agree with Pellegrini’s (predicted) line-up?
It’s a shame both Zaba & Fernando have to play again after a ‘full 90’ and 78-minutes played on Sunday respectively (no Bacary or Fabian) but yes; I’d go with that too.
Result? Perhaps not the 3-goal cushion I have in mind as a minimum ‘perfect result’ but I can see us-taking a lead into the home leg on 15th March.