Manchester City v Bournemouth - Match Preview
When Pep`s side finished third in the league last season some 8 points behind Spurs many pundits and hacks felt vindicated in their musings about how hard the Catalan coach would find things in the self-proclaimed "most competitive league in the world". They waxed lyrical about how Pep had failed to win a trophy in his first season at a club for the first time in his career and took some smug pride in wondering whether his adherence to his footballing principles could "cut it" at the highest level of English football. They felt rather pleased with themselves.
Several months on and with Manchester City leading the Premier League by 11 points, handsomely securing qualification to the knockout stages of the Champions League before the final group fixture, and the talented squad passing each test that has been laid before them Pep could, with some justification, himself rightly feel vindicated and lord it over the assembled media doubters and nay-sayers. But that is not his way and the City coach continues to remain humble and well aware of the danger of hubris - it is only December and nothing is won yet. He also knows that revenge is a dish best served cold (as they say in Klingon) and is keeping his dumplings and sage stuffing in the freezer. He knows that there is work to do and especially so over a crowded Christmas period.
…….which starts with the arrival of Eddie Howe`s men at the weekend.
Despite the record between the clubs in the Premier League (City W5 D0 L0 GF17 GA2) I am quite sure that Pep will not allow the squad to become in any way familiar with the C word this weekend.
Complacency. Potentially City`s worst enemy but one which their coach will be sure to guard against and he has enough experience of the league now to follow the old cliches of taking one game at a time and respecting your opponent.
The Cherries gave City a stern test at Dean Court in the opening days of the season with Sterling setting off wild scenes after he scored the winning goal at the death. They very nearly forced their League Cup tie into extra time on Wednesday and peppered De Gea`s goal last week when Moaning Maureen`s Galacticos squeaked past them by a solitary goal. In between those two games they shipped 4 goals against Liverpool. They will feel they have little to lose this weekend and will be up for this game without a doubt despite not securing a win in over a month.
Having given several youngsters an outing in midweek Pep will return to the familiar senior squad for this game with Aguero likely to be leading the line not least because Jesus played all 120mins+ against Leicester. Sterling and Sane will also return up front supported by the imperious De Bruyne and the under rated Fernandinho. We await news on whether David Silva will feature after his withdrawal last weekend for personal reasons. If still unavailable his namesake Bernardo will almost certainly deputise after a solid performance in the League Cup quarter final. With Ederson replacing penalty hero (again) Bravo in goal and Walker, Otamendi and Delph resuming their plates in defence City`s top team should be reunited again.
City will enter 2018 still active in all four competitions and the fixture list remains very crowded. This is a time when resilience - physical and mental - will be tested and where self-belief is going to be crucial.
I am convinced that the unity which Pep has engineered within the squad coupled with the increasing integration of the talents lads from the EDS will remain critical factors as the season moves forward. The celebrations witnessed recently whether it is in the dressing room, after a goal or after a penalty shoot out victory are all indicative of the togetherness which Pep firmly believes helps to carry his sides forward. They foster the trust which is self evident during the games - trust in themselves, their team mates and their coach - a trust which is now growing in the young players who are participating in something they could only have dreamed of but which will bolster their self-confidence and strengthen their belief that they have a future at the club and will fight to be part of that future.
Come on City!!!
Opponent to watch
Dan Gosling - slotted home a very handy goal against Chelsea in midweek albeit in vain after his team went to sleep from the kick off and conceded within 14 seconds.
Famous Bournemouth fans:-
The list is a bit thin I am afraid……
Pyrion Flax (Yeah, I know ……who?)
Ted MacDougal - once netted a staggering 49 times in one season for the Cherries
John Bailey - the only Bournemouth player ever to score at Wembley
Sean O`Drisscol - 423 league appearances and 6 years as manager of the club
Steve Fletcher - holder of the club record for appearances (493 between 1992-2007 & a further 135 between 2009-13). He has a stand named after him at Dean Court.
After Bobby Madley`s scattergun, "It`s a Man`s Game" and Maureen influenced "Gust of Wind" performance on Tuesday evening, the decisions this weekend will be in the hands of…….
Referee - Mike Jones
Assistants - Ian Hussain; Derek Eaton
Fourth Official - Mike Dean
City will be without long term absentee Mendy, John Stones and Vincent Kompany.
Bournemouth will be without Mings, Smith and are likely to be without Jermaine Defoe after he was on the receiving end of a rather late challenge during the League Cup defeat on Wednesday.
Potential starting XI, subs & formation
Walker, Otamendi, Mangala, Delph
De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva D
Sterling, Aguero, Sané
Bravo, Adarabioyo, Danilo, Foden, Silva B, Gundogan, Jesus