Saturday, 29 April 2017

Games coming thick 'n' fast - some rotation I think…

2 games with just a 64-¼ hour gap in between is a little heavy going; even for a team drilled-to-be-as-fit as most players / teams on the planet. And after a Trafford / Manchester Derby too…although our defence didn’t exactly get overworked on Thursday night. 


That - and the fact that tomorrow’s opponents actually managed to score AND record win (v Sunderland) last Wednesday; dragging themselves to within 6 points of avoiding ‘the drop’ with a far better goal difference of those around them - I think has actually made this fixture – against our past bogey team and on a regular bogey ground for us – a little more interesting / tricky.

v Middlesbrough

Riverside Stadium

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.

Fluid 4-5-1 / 4-4-1-1 / 4-4-2:







There’s a few ‘ifs, buts & maybes’ about some of our player’s injury / recovery-wise so there’s room for extra error here…

Willy back in net.

Gael to get his place back on the left of defence for this one; the recovered Bacary likely to start on the opposite flank I would suggest. In between those is ‘go again’ Vinny & Nicholas.

It might surprise some to see me guessing that Pep would choose the older legs of Yaya over Kevin for a game so soon after a Thursday night one but I think, if fit enough of course, Pep chooses form over anything else. That, for me, is why Yaya ‘gets the nod’. Next to Yaya I think we’ll see the return of David after a brief injury lay-off. Either side of those I think we’ll see Jesus resume his more advanced, right-sided duties and Leroy to ‘go again’ on the left.

Two up front? I think we just might see that, as Guardiola gives the 'Gabriel & Sergio combo' a try (God help Boro if that comes off!).

Angus gets promoted to ‘keeper cover’; Pablo & the returning-from-injury John provide defensive replacement options. Fernandinho to be rested but there in case needed and is joined by the more attacking Kevin, Raheem & Kelechi.

Notable absences: Outfield player with gloves on (injured), Aleks Kolarov (not selected / rested), Fabian Delph (not selected), Fernando (not selected) & Nolito (not selected).

Do I agree with Pep’s (predicted) line-up?

Well it’s a little new-looking and as long as the legs of David (31) & Yaya (almost 34) can handle that duo in the middle of the park (I’m sure assisted by, at the very least, Gabriel) then I’m fine with that 11.

Result? As I say, for me this has a slight ‘extra edge’ & danger to it following our host’s result in the North-East Derby in midweek; one which virtually consigned The Black Cats to Championship football next season but, which, also gave their own season a glimmer of hope to say the least. If I was Steve Agnew, I’d have been hammering home to my players that very fact every waking hour of the day! The Smoggies have also had an extra 24 hours to recover from their local rival match.

But we’re playing really well at the moment; have nearly everyone fit (including some really key players) and have SO much creativity – along with now-added ‘goal threat’ with our young Brazilian back from injury – that even our-often ‘bogey team / ground’ surely can’t scupper our continued efforts to finish 3rd. For me this is 3 away points.

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