Manchester City v Watford - Match Preview
Pep Guardiola and his squad enter 2018 battered and bruised but with their spirit unbowed and, I am sure, with a burning desire to continue their unparalleled run in the Premier League. Top of the league by a record 14 points, undefeated in the league this season (P21 W19 D2 L0) and playing football which has finally got the hacks and pundits eating their words about Pep Guardiola`s ability as a coach.
After a costly trip to the return nation`s capital on New Year`s Eve where they gained a point but lost Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne to injury, next up at Fortress Etihad on Tuesday are Marco Silva`s Watford. Despite Pep`s plea to officials in his post match press conference on Sunday to protect players, he will be going into this game I am sure with some trepidation having lost both Jesus and De Bruyne to poor challenges in the draw against Palace.
After all, Watford are not a side renowned for being shy in knocking their opponent`s about. Troy Deeney will miss the game after he received a 4 (yes, four) game ban for a straight red card after lunging at Huddersfield`s Collin Quaner and, lest we forget, it was against this side in December 2016 where Prodas could easily have received a red card and where Ilkay Gundogan was on the end of a tackle from Amrabat which tore his ACL leaving him facing nine months+ of painful rehabilitation. I am recall saying at the time that that injury was the result of weak refereeing where the failure of Kevin Friend to punish the Watford players for their persistent foul play - they were constantly committing fouls high up the pitch in City`s half - led they to continue their assaults until eventually a player was seriously hurt.
The referee on Tuesday evening will be Lee Mason. All eyes will be on him because it seems that after the words of Paul Pogba, Moaning Maureen and Danny Murphy last month it is open season on Manchester City players.
Their words, seeded in December, have taken root and are now bearing their evil fruit.
The rest of the league, frustrated by their inability to defeat City by fair means have resorted to the darker arts and are, I am ashamed to say, being aided and abetted by the officials.
Paul Pogba - BBC Football Focus - 2 Dec 2017
'I hope - and it's bad to say things like this - but I hope they will get some very important players injured like what happened with us,'
Jose Mourinho - 8th Dec 2017
"One thing that I don`t like a lot is that they lose their balance very easily. A little bit of wind and they fall"
Danny Murphy - MotD - 14 Dec 2017
'But not one Swansea player got a yellow card. Some people would say 'good discipline' — I don`t.
'I think you've got to be trying to get in their faces. A few badly-timed tackles and a few bits of indiscipline... I don't mind that from my players.
'No tackles and no yellow cards. It was powderpuff."
Grateful thanks to the BBC for providing the platform for these guys to spout their 'stuff`.
Since Murphy advocated that City`s opponents ought to make "a few badly-timed tackles" we have seen red card offences committed by Kane, Alli, Diame and now Puncheon (the worst of the lot) against Sterling, De Bruyne & Gundogan. three of those resulted in yellow cards despite the fact that they were all sending off offences.
Foden sustained a ligament injury after a heavy challenge rom the thug Maguire in the League Cup quarter final, Jesus could be sidelined for 4 weeks+ after a tackle from Townsend on Sunday where he went through Gabriel`s standing leg causing him to twist, lose his footing and strain his knee and then have the referee - clearly a medical expert - diagnose that he was not injured (the effect of Maureen`s words?) and initially refuse him medical treatment on the pitch.
And then we had Jason Puncheon`s 'assault` on De Bruyne which was pretty much pre-medititated IMO. Occurring immediately after Palace`s missed penalty Puncheon was stood on the edge of the City penalty area with his back to the City goal and watching Kevin De Bruyne. When the ball breaks and is collected by De Bruyne who breaks forward, Puncheon accelerates and launches himself at the Belgian taking none of the ball but catching the City play maker knee height and laying him out. He was positioned and Intended to prevent a City counter attack by fair means or foul. It was a leg breaker straight out of the book of Chopper Harris - for those of us old enough to remember his agricultural tackles. He chose foul and then proceeded to require treatment of his own - it worked as the referee took pity on him and only issue a yellow card for what could not have more clearly been a sending off offence.
The insidious effect of the words of Pogba, Maureen and Murphy are having an effect. Leicester, Spurs, Newcastle and now Palace have taken opportunities to commit bad fouls which have not been appropriately punished by the referees in those games - the standard is set, the licence to go over the top has been issued and the officials have been complicit.
It is a small step from Mourinho`s thinly veiled accusation that City players dive whenever they can to assuming that they are not injured when they claim to be - I cannot see any other excuse for Jon Moss assuming that Gabriel Jesus was not injured after Townsend`s foul on Sunday other than he thought he was making it up. Now where could he have gotten that idea from?
Pep is correct - the officials need to be stronger and punish these offences and ensure that the offenders are appropriately sanctioned. We have seen the effects of their failure to do so in the injuries sustained by City`s players since Danny Murphy advocated more "badly-timed tackles". WTF?
On to the game……
Aside from Chopper Deeney, Watford will also be missing Kaboul, Hughes, Britos, Femenia, Success, Chalobah, Cathcart and Hoban through injury.
For City, Mendy and Foden are now joined by Jesus and De Bruyne. Delph remains a doubt having missed the last few games suffering muscle fatigue but Tuesday may see the return to fitness of John Stones and potentially Kompany.
With David Silva perhaps still absent dealing with family matters in Spain (our best wishes to him), De Bruyne sidelined and Jesus out of the frame Pep will have to shuffle his pack with perhaps a berth found for Bernardo Silva in the centre of midfield. We all knew that the depth of the squad and their resilience would be tested as the season progressed - well it looks like now is that time. With the FA Cup and League Cup fixtures looming followed by a trip to Anfield on 14th January I can see some game time for young Zinchenko, Toure and Diaz soon but for tomorrow I fancy Pepe to field a string side to start 2018 well and send out a strong message - we will NOT be intimidated.
Possible starting XI and subs: -
Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Danilo
B Silva, Fernandinho, Gundogan
Sterling, Aguero, Sane
Bravo, Zinchenko, Mangala, Adarabioyo, Toure, Delph, Diaz
City`s recent record in all competitions against Watford reads P6 W6 GF21 GA3. The last two fixtures have been 0-6 and 0-5 victories.
I hope we see another one of those thumping wins on Tuesday night. After the weekend and witnessing the level to which sides are stooping to try and stop us I want nothing better than for Pep`s side to ram their thuggery down their throats.
The officials need to get their collective act together and do their job properly.
Referee: Lee Mason
Assistants: Harry Lennard, Matthew Wilkes
Fourth official: Mike Dean
We will be watching you.
Come On City!!!