The Season Starts Today
The glorious day has arrived and for Manchester City the real season commences this very day.
Whilst commentators spent the weekend telling us that one point tonight gets us into the Champions League, it doesn't. It just effectively kills off Tottenham's challenge.
Coming up on the rails like a dodgy outsider in the Grand National are the dead and buried Liverpool who under the careful guidance of legend Kenny Dalglish can now almost see the finishing line themselves and if they were to win all of their matches and we were to lose ours...well the 'traditional top four' would be back in business.
I predicted a short while ago that if we won all of our last five matches we would not only be FA Cup Winners but also third in the Premier League, because I was convinced the Gooners would be sacrificing points.
Well the Ashburton White Flag looked even worse than ours at Everton when they offered up to fellow Cup Finalists Stoke City on Sunday. I'm sure the Arsenal contingent don't need me to tell them that they were not up to scratch.
The question is ...'Will City be up to scratch on Saturday?'.
It is no secret that teams who play as combatively as Stoke City do not suit the Blues. Yes we now have players who can look after themselves a bit but we also have potential roman candles in the form of Balotelli, deJong and Zabaleta who can be provoked. We also have a defence that is susceptible to letting in goals as a result of aerial combat. And those are the weaknesses that Tony Pulis will be drilling into his Air Force this week.
But first off is Tottenham. Against the background that they still have Liverpool to play, just maybe there are signs of another North London lily-white flag on the horizon here. With Bale and Huddlestone missing and Modric racing against time some of their artillery is gone, but I am expecting a bombardment in the direction of Crouch with dangerous Defoe looking to feed of the scraps, or Van de Vaart for that matter. Total concentration will be needed from VK and Lescott and indeed Hart. Other than that I think our time has come and we can end the day heading for the Champions League.
We then head south for the most important match in our recent history. I did tell you that this may be the day when Manchester could rule the domestic football world with Stretford Green and Golders taking the title in the morning and City the cup in the afternoon. Of course the cynics in the media say 'United will over shadow City again' but will they? They have been expected to win the league for a while haven't they?
I still subscribe to the theory that on Saturday we must play the match in two thirds of the field and not let Stoke milk their dead ball situations in and around our penalty area. It can't have gone unnoticed that they are quite free-scoring at the moment, at home anyway, whereas we are trying to sit out one-goal leads, in most cases successfully but signficantly against another bully-boy team on Saturday we came unstuck. We managed to overcome the likes of Scholes and Co in the semi-final and another performance like that is needed. We need to get the scoreboard ticking not only once and defend from a higher starting point.
Sure they will try to target Silva and Balotelli for different reasons. Silva should weave his magic and Mario needs to keep the grip he kept against United.
I have to admit to being nervous on both counts. Is it me or is it the joys of being a City fan?
The consolation is that I still think Arsenal look vulnerable and there may still be points for them to lose. They have surrendered their title opportunity to a place just outside Manchester. I would love them to surrender third place to the only football team in Manchester.