Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Saturday January 21 2012
For the third time in as many seasons the City v Tottenham fixture has arrived carrying a big bonus. In 2010 Peter Crouch`s goal catapulted Spurs into the Champions League and in 2011 his own goal did likewise for City.
In 2012 we have a whole new set of dynamics. City have started the season in rip-roaring fashion averaging 3 goals a week, but faltering of late as International calls, injuries and suspensions have kicked-in, whereas Spurs, hammered 5-1 at home by City at the start of the season, have dug in losing only once in 19 games. In amongst that they too have played some scintillating football leaving the nation licking its lips at the thought of what will unfold tomorrow afternoon.
Harry has declared that with City`s resources he would have won the league already. Southern-based journalists state that Spurs are playing the best football in the Premier League. That may be so temporarily but have they not ventured to the Etihad yet this season? They have to jump on some sort of bandwagon because their usual darlings of Arsenal and Chelsea certainly are not.
With Adebayor consigned to the team bus, Harry will have to go with Defoe up front. Like Aguero he creates a different set of challenges to the big man. Whereas I think Lescott could handle Adebayor all afternoon, the pace and scoring ability of Defoe for me is more of a threat. Lescott is not quick over the short yards and Defoe will be looking to exploit this.
Spurs also have wide threats in the shape of Bale and Lennon and Harry`s team will probably line up to maximise this against Richards who is returning from injury and Clichy, who probably had his poorest game for City at Wigan.
So will Mancini go all guns blazing, with whatever guns he has at his disposal or will it be a "do not lose" line up that could pinch it on the break?
As we head towards the business end of the season, City`s world this week could come tumbling down, or they can place themselves in the box seats in search of the title. It is about getting 3 points. It is about making sure your players understand the importance of every fixture. There is no rest or respite on match days.
My thoughts are that Mancini will put out an "off-the-wall" type of side designed to negate the Spurs threat down the wings, but leave enough creativity for his team to steal the prize. His selection could be an odd one where we might expect to see "doubling-up" out wide with Zabaleta brought into the frame ahead of the more attack minded Nasri, with instructions to cover right and left depending upon the point of attack.
Although Balotelli is supposedly fit again, I suspect he will be on the bench with Dzeko and Aguero the preferred options up front, Dzeko leading the line with Aguero in the hole.
It will be up to Milner and Barry to take the mantle in midfield, freeing up Silva to get the attack going. Savic might look like a weak link but I think he is equipped to deal with Defoe.
City need to get out of the habit of giving away penalties and getting men red-carded. It is very difficult to play with 10-men at this level and we don`t have to look very far to see the effect of that, so it is important that City keeps everyone on the field and graft hard to get the result they want.
Of course Stretford`s finest go to the Emirates hoping for another opportunity to dismantle a team that they slaughtered at home earlier in the season. Will the Gooners put in the kind of performance that they did at the Etihad or will it be more like last week at the Liberty Stadium, where they surrendered a lead to lose to ….Swansea. Will we see a return to the Ashburton Bottling Factory as they wave their perennial white flag when playing against Fergie`s boys? Or will it be City who end the weekend with, dare I say it, red faces?
Wins for City and Arsenal, push City further along towards their goal for the season. I suspect it will be a season with many more twists and turns to go, but the importance of this match yet again cannot be overstated.
Date:Saturday January 21 2012
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