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VMC Preview: Man City v WBA

VMC Preview: Man City v WBA

City play their final home game of the season on Tuesday when Tony Pulis brings his mid-table West Brom side to the Etihad. Postponed due to City's appearance in the FA Cup semi-final this is effectively our game in hand on Liverpool and could prove the pivotal fixture in the race to secure Champions League football.

The 'Race for Third Place' is the last excitement that Sky will be able to squeeze out of the remaining games in the PL now that the title has been secured by Chelsea and Spurs secured their highest ever Premier League finish after their defeat of the rags confirmed that Maureen in his first season in charge of the rags will finish in 6th place. That's one better than The Chosen One managed and he didn't have the 'World's Most Expensive Football Player' (sic) in his side.

Much has been made of Maureen taking the rags to two finals this season...but this surely is only papering over the cracks given the disdain with which rag fans normally treat the League Cup (always a 'tin pot' competition when City have won it) and the Europa League. More importantly this will be the 5th time in the last six seasons when the rags will finish the league campaign behind Manchester City. Let me rephrase that...the 5th time in six seasons that Manchester City FC has finished in a higher league position than Manchester U****d. Gosh that feels good especially for all those of us who are long enough in the tooth to recall the misery heaped upon us by the Stretfords as they crowed every success thinking it was a relentless, never-ending gravy train. Not any more.

But I digress - back to the main event...

City currently have a superior goal difference of +5 over Arsenal who have overtaken the rags in 5th place and are now the only other side who can make the top 4. Liverpool sit above City one point to the good and with a GD of +32 compared to City's +33. With the Gooners facing two home fixtures to end their season against doomed Sunderland and an Everton side that can climb no higher than their current 7th place and Liverpool playing their final fixture at home to already relegated Boro it is not inconceivable that goal difference may yet play a part in the final reckoning. As we witnessed in the title winning season in 2011/12, 'Every Goal Matters' and one has to hope that City's profligacy this season does not come back to haunt them.

Pep's exasperation on the sidelines during the season at the chances his players have squandered was always understandable (every manager hates his team missing chances to score) but perhaps now he might be given more credit than he has been afforded by some in the media for actually grasping the significance of those missed chances. The hacks that have relished in his failure to win a trophy in his first season in charge have been waxing on at length about how he 'thought it might be easier' and 'he has learnt a lesson'....well, I am not so sure that he ever thought it would be easy at all. What he was trying to do is remain true to his coaching principles whilst adapting his squad to his methods and approach to playing football, with a squad that many have recognised has been in need of an overhaul and coping with injuries to players who were absolutely critical to his plan. Chelsea without Hazard for half the season or Spurs without Kane and Erikson for similar period would not perhaps have been the same either.

Overall, I don't think he has done too badly - if this was a school report I would probably mark his year's work so far down as a B+ (rising to an A- if third place is secured) adding the remarks 'Josep tries hard but could do better. He is dedicated and always puts in 100%. His application to the task has been exemplary and he has been willing to learn from his mistakes. Now that he has had a year to settle into his new environment in Big School I expect him to maintain his effort and improve. I expect big things from young Josep'.

The situation on the one hand is simple - if City win both their remaining games they will finish third. A failure to win either match and that's when the four goals shipped without reply against Everton or the chances not taken throughout the previous 36 matches could yet come back to bite us.

Pulis will always play City with a massive chip on his shoulder after the events of the 1999 Play Off Final but credit where it is due, he did not allow his side to roll over against Chelsea and Conte's men had to wait an agonising 83 minutes before they breached the hard working WBA shield. I fully expect that he will come to the Etihad with a similar intent and make it a very tough game - might be one for watching from behind the sofa. That said WBA haven't won a league match since mid-March when they defeated Arsenal (before their revival), have lost 5 of the 7 matches they have played since then and only managed to score 2 goals in those 7 games.

City on the other hand have only lost one home fixture in this campaign (vs Chelsea) and have secured victories in 7 of the 11 home games played since then including the thumping of Palace and the somewhat fortunate victory over the whiners from the King Power. I am probably not alone in thinking that we were due a bit of good fortune after the garbage decisions we have had to put up with this campaign...

Talking of which, we have the pleasure of Mr Craig Pawson officiating the match on Tuesday. Last seen in charge of a City game in the FA Cup semi-final...

In team news WBA have slight doubt over Gareth MCauley whilst Pep has a full squad to select from with only Ilkay Gundogan and Claudio Bravo unavailable.

Once again Pep, this is no time for experimentation, not with so much at stake so I am hoping that he sticks to the same plan with perhaps a rest for G Jesus and one other exception...

Pablo Zabaleta

A separate thread has been established for this club stalwart so I shall not wax on too long about one of my favourite ever Manchester City players.

Check this out...

327 appearances and 11 goals he has been the epitome of what City fans want from their players - a commitment to the cause through thick and thin, willing to give his all for the sky blue shirt. A true City legend who will be sorely missed but always welcomed back at the club. There will be a few lumps in the throat in the ground on Tuesday evening as he takes his home bow and I am sure he will be given a rapturous welcome and a great send off. If Gabriel Jesus needs any further education on how City fans can take a player to their heart then he should keep his eyes open and his ears pinned back - Zabaleta has been a true professional and will deserve every moment of the standing ovation I am sure he will receive.

To emphasise Pablo's importance to how this club has grown I will finish with the following...

13th May 2012. Manchester City v QPR. Final game of the season - there wasn't only one Argentinian hero playing in sky blue that day. Pablo Zabaleta played an absolutely critical part in changing the history of Manchester City Football Club that day and I will always be grateful for his immense contribution...

With half time approaching and the crowd getting anxious it was his goal, after his trademark run into the box, that settled the nerves (for a while at least)...

It was his indefatigable overlapping run in the first minute of added time that led to the corner from which Edin Dzeko scored the equalising goal to bring us all hope...

In the third minute of added time, after Shaun Wright-Phillips had nicked the ball away from Nigel de Jong just outside the QPR penalty area and was racing away upfield, it was Pablo Zabaleta that made a lung-busting chase (Shaun was pretty fast) before making a crucial challenge on the half way line for the throw in from which we regained possession...and the rest is history.

Thank you Pablo Zabaleta.

Come on City!!!

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Date:Monday May 15 2017
Time: 1:03PM

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