Johnny On The Spot - January Preview
January 2018 has opened with Manchester City`s 26th game of a potentially mammoth season of fixtures. 22 more contests are already fixed in the Filofax with much more to come should the Blues continue to push on in the three cup competitions that they have a very strong shout in. Let`s see how Pep Guardiola`s men could fare…
Watford, Etihad Stadium , Tuesday 2nd January 20h00 GMT, PL
Despite a clear and present danger evidenced by Crystal Palace assassins that kicking the Premier League leaders off the park might yet prove our opponents preferred choice of tactic after all out defence or going toe to toe with the Citizens has previously failed, I think it`s a matter of time before some side cops for a proper pasting off City. There is enough potential cannon fodder lined up at the Etihad this month to suggest that what has been in all honesty, errant profligacy, is soon to be transferred into yet more goals. December`s unbeaten domestic run carried a glut of "should have beens." The law of averages dictate that sooner or later many more of those missed gilt edged chances are going to go in. The hornets` nosediving form last month wherein Marco Silva`s men lost 6 of 8 fixtures suggests they could be thrashed out of town.
City 7 Watford 0
Burnley, Etihad Stadium, Saturday 6th January 15h00 GMT, FA Cup 3rd Round
I thoroughly agree with Guardiola`s assertion that the English footballing hierarchy should take a look at the intensity of fixture frequency that often strangles the country`s elite sides. You have to go back to mid November`s international break to find the last time City enjoyed more than 3 or 4 days space between matches. This makes the squad`s achievements to date all the more extraordinary. Clubs on the continent very often benefit from the massaging of their timetables by their own authorities in order to maximise their output in European competition. This pointedly does not happen in England. Which brings us to the small matter of an uncompromising Burnley coming to town for this FA cup clash. The clarets have not enjoyed the results their efforts have merited of late and outside of a tuning by Harry Kane who should have by rights been sent off against City a few days earlier, Burnley have wrestled with a run of narrow squeak encounters. Looking ahead, Pep will have no choice other than to rest the majority of his first choice side for this match and I foresee a tight contest that City should edge.
City 2 Burnley 1
Bristol City, Etihad Stadium, Tuesday 9th January 19h45 GMT, League Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg
The intriguing visit of Championship high flyers Bristol presents another opportunity to give our main men a bit of a breather, especially ahead of a humdinger at Candlefield. I fully expect that El Boss will show faith in the young players that defeated Leicester in the previous round and give them a chance to further cement their claims to be a big part of City`s future. The intrigue stems from the fact that since they humiliated moaning Maureen`s rags in this competition, Lee Johnson`s men have dropped 8 points from a possible 12 and go into this game off the back of a 5-0 hammering at Aston Villa and an FA Cup encounter with Premier League mid tablers Watford. I expect City will prevail with enough space to take to Ashton Gate later in the month.
City 3 Bristol 1
Liverpool, Anfield, Sunday 14th January 16h30 GMT, PL
Perennial media darlings Liverpool can seemingly do no wrong. Their breaking of the transfer record for signing a defender in Virgil Van Dijk has been widely dismissed as "the market" so soon after City`s widely pilloried purchase of Kyle Walker. We cringed previously at the relentless arslikhan afforded to the eventually doomed Brendan Rodgers with his "People`s Champions" and mark my words, the Jurgen Klopp love-in is going to go into over-drive ahead of this game as his side, if they beat Everton in the FA Cup, will come into this game unbeaten for 17 games. A legion of dreadfully biased hacks and pundits know that Liverpool present the stiffest domestic opposition that City are going to face until we take on Arsenal and Chelsea sandwiched consecutively between European showdowns with Basel. A City defeat is craved by the media nationwide and with 9 days rest before the fixture, whilst possessing the firepower to unhinge any defence, it is clear that Liverpool have the ability backed by vociferous home support to give the Blues an uneasy evening. We haven`t won at Anfield in a long while and despite now possessing the wealth of talent to do so, I sense that a combination of injuries, possible suspensions and fixture jet lag could mean that we will more than settle for an invaluable point, albeit achieved through thrills and spills.
Liverpool 2 City 2
Newcastle, Etihad Stadium, Saturday 20th January 17h30 GMT, PL
My goodness Newcastle were abysmal at home to City during the festive seasons and should have been smashed out of sight. It was a bonafide scandal that their quintessential lack of ambition was not punished more readily. Regardless of plenty of rest days in amongst lesser or equivalent lights before they reach the Etihad, I don`t expect Rafa Benitez`s rubbish team to get away with murder for a second time inside 4 weeks.
City 5 Newcastle 0
Bristol City, Ashton Gate, Tuesday 23rd December 19h45 GMT, League Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg
Where once the mighty rags fell, a much changed again City side must now stand up and be counted if they are to reach the first Wembley final of the Guardiola era. If the Blues as I expect have prevailed in the first leg, we have to accept that Bristol will throw everything they have got at this game, particularly as form at the start of January suggests they will lose at title chasers Derby some days earlier. I think this clash could prove to be a minor classic.
Bristol 2 City 2
West Bromwich Albion, Etihad Stadium, Wednesday 31st January 20h00 GMT, PL
Things are looking increasingly desperate, if they weren`t already for West Brom who haven`t won a game of football since a cup victory at Accrington last August. Incredulous but true. The unpredictable Alan Pardew has bagged (sic) himself a seventh top flight job and for the life of me, despite him adding some resilience to WBA of late, I think he is looking at a one way ticket to relegation. This has to be a cruise control City win.
City 4 West Bromwich Albion 0
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