Writer: Johnny Baguette
Date:Saturday January 7 2012
Much of this week's focus has been about the absence of YaYa Touré and Gareth Barry in the City engine room this weekend, but one consumate professional is ready to rumble...
It will be fascinating to see how Roberto Mancini sets up his midfield against a united side who, hopelessly outmuscled, lost the centre of the park to Newcastle a few nights ago. The rags achilles heel is slap bang in the middle of the park right now. They don't like it up 'em. And it is this fact above all other team news that makes Touré junior and Barry's ommission all the more significant.
This game has developed into something of a last chance saloon for the rags whose erratic form this season has begun to match the parlous state of their club's financial standing. We can be absolutely assured that Taggart will have them fired right up.
Mancio has a fully fit Nigel De Jong and Jimmy Milner to call upon. Aleksander Kolarov might yet get the nod out on the left whilst Samir Nasri, recovering from a virus could get the creative call alongside David Silva ahead of Adam Johnson. Much will depend upon whether or not Mario Balotelli or Edin Dzeko can shake off respective ankle and knee injuries.
But if the dapper City gaffer is after absolute combativeness, commitment and a will to run and run in the heat of derby battle then look no further than Pablo Zabaleta. The Citizens very own international rescue.
The 26 year old Argentine international has proved to be an absolute steal since joining City from Espanyol for £6 million 3.5 years ago. He has since chalked up 137 City appearances and 3 goals.
Zaba is also Blue through and through and whenever called upon, be it at left back, right back or on either midfield flank he's given our club everything. Give Zaba Harty's gloves and he'd fight the City fight from there, too.
Zabaleta on the cup derby:
"I have experienced many derbies in Argentina and Spain, but this Manchester one is special. United have dominated for many years but since the cup semi-final last year things have changed and now we are in a better position.
"City have players missing on Sunday for different reasons, but I think we arrive to the game in better shape than our rivals, even though anything can happen in a derby match...United's morale must be damaged after two league defeats in a row, but that's a double edged sword because they will give everything from the start. We expect a hard and intense match.
"Rooney is important for United and we saw that with his great goal last season, but our mission is to stop their midfield from functioning comfortably. That's where the battle will be won and lost this Sunday."
Mancio might just look to add that extra bit of steel at The Etihad to break up the rags game plan and Zabaleta could well have a big role to play on Sunday afternoon.
How would you set up The Blues midfield for the big cup clash?
all times East Manchester
Su 8 Jan 13:00 City v Rags, The Etihad, FAC3
We 11 Jan 19:45 Liverpool, The Etihad, LCSF1
Mo 16 Jan 20:00 Wigan, DW Stadium, PL
Su 22 Jan 13:30 Spurs, The Etihad, PL
We 25 Jan 19:45 Liverpool, Anfield, LCSF2
Date:Saturday January 7 2012
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