Very big night indeed tomorrow – glad most of our players are fit for this one...at last!
First time ever in the quarter final stage of the Champions League and now a really good chance to make it into the dizzying heights of the semis! Wowzers!
Now regular readers and those who know me should know that, as a still-developing football club under our current owners, I still see ‘all things domestic’ as our main priority. This is (and most certainly will do under Pep Guardiola) starting to change more towards the glitz of top European football. But we are still, right now, way off the likes of Barca, Bayern and Real…and probably Atletico Madrid too.
Of course it doesn’t escape me that, as that very-same growing football club, we NEED to progress and compete in the Champions League in order to attract some of the best players from around the world; to expand our growing army of worldwide fans and keep the inflow of cash from prize money and investors. I’ve got all that – noted & stored in my memory banks.
But where it still gripes me is that whilst rising as a footballing force; bringing in better players and, hopefully one day, seeing the fruits of the City Football Academy; we should not let it affect TOO much our domestic obligations, especially the all-important Premier League.
That’s my stance anyway and, for this season, I’ll also chuck-in a little bit of evidence too…
Tottenham Hotspur away before we travelled to Borussia Monchengladbach, although slightly forced by some growing injures, ended in a terrible performance; particularly at the back and, which, resulted in a 4-1 defeat.
At home to Liverpool before an away visit to Juventus, Pellegrini picked an AWFUL ‘first 11’ and we were humiliated at home; once again on the reverse of a 4-1’er.
Stoke City away was one of ‘the’ worse performances of the season and, again, very poor player selection; as Pellegrini clearly had one eye on our home game against Borussia Monchengladbach and losing, as we did, 2-0.
Baring in mind, folks, that it’s not advisable to lose more than 4 league games if you wanna have a chance of winning the league; there’s 3 for you ‘straight off’…
There were occasions throughout the season where we won our league games before we faced European opposition…but I believe this competition has, the way our manager has gone about his team selections, severely dented our main ‘bread & butter’ campaign; the one that fans go to see the most throughout the season. That’s just not right at the moment for me...
BUT…here we are and I can’t help getting wrapped-up in the spectacle of it all as well as the excitement of ‘getting a crack’ at a 2-legged semi-final. I will be chuffed as anyone if we win tomorrow and so very proud and excited if we progress to the final itself, even if we don’t win it in the end.
I just wish it hadn’t come at the price of us-now nail-biting to see if we can finish 4th in our home league…
Anyway…on with a predicted line-up, subs and outcome.
4-5-1 / 4-2-3-1:
Subs: Caballero, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Delph, Navas, Iheanacho.
Joe to continue in net and, hopefully, to continue his fine performances both domestic & European.
With the players available – and no disrespect to Pablo Zabaleta whatsoever – that’s probably the strongest defence we can muster for this one.
Fernando likely to continue his largely fine performance; less of the silliness that we saw between him & Joe in the first leg of course and likely to be our main ‘defensive screen’ in front of the defence itself. Slightly ahead of him in a duel defensive / attacking role is his ‘Fern’ partner in the middle of the park. I think, ahead of those two, we’ll see a largely attacking trio of Kevin, Yaya & David across from left to right.
Sergio to be the lone striker to, hopefully, be the recipient of some fine creativity from 3 or 4 of those behind him.
A strong ‘starting 11’ to, hopefully, put PSG on the ‘back foot’ and go even further ahead in the tie.
Decent bench too – Willy the keeper insurance; Aleks (who had decent games against both Bournemouth (as a late sub) & West Bromwich Albion), Pablo and Martin the defensive changes if needed. Delph likely / surely to at least make the bench; Jesus & Kelechi likely / hopefully the attacking options from ‘the 7’.
Notable absences: Vincent Kompany (injured), Samir Nasri (not eligible for Champions League / not selected in squad for this competition), Raheem Sterling (injured) and Wilfried Bony (not selected).
A rare comment on those missing / likely to be missing tomorrow: Surely…SURELY our manager sees the need to include Kelechi on the bench and with the others I’ve predicted on the side very much needed in reserve also; SURELY then the one to be ‘squeezed out’ on this occasion is Wilfried Bony.
Do I agree with Pellegrini’s (predicted) line-up?
Sure do – can’t argue at all if that was to be ‘his 11’.
Result? I think we're ‘on’ for this. Yeah they might score with the dangerous attacking options they have but having-had a look at their defence, I think we can expose them more than once and score more than them tomorrow night (7:45pm KO BST).
With the additional bonus of a couple of their key players at least being suspended for this one; I think it’s a win on the night for us and, therefore, we won’t even need the away goals that we’ve managed to accumulate. Semi-finals here we come!
Expected weather conditions during the game: Dry, overcast, barley a breeze and not too cold at 9C. However...be warned those who are going to the match; the last on-line BBC and television forecast for WBA last Saturday was BOBBINS, as it absolutely bounced down for at least 1-½ hours rather than the 'showers' it forecasted!