Manchester City v Leicester City - Match Preview
Stung by a lapse in concentration last weekend which allowed Burnley to equalise, the squad will be well aware of Pep`s views on the impact that their renewed acquaintance with profligacy in front of goal can have. It doesn`t take the level of football experience and depth of dedicated pre-match research undertaken by City`s hard working coach to realise that a single goal lead is a precarious situation. That much is obvious to anyone who has a passing interest in football. But Pep knows the importance of winning matches in maintaining momentum and pressure and despite City`s points cushion in the league he will have been very conscious of giving any glimmer of hope to his rivals and other opponents who can seize upon perceived weaknesses or mental fragility.
We have to hope that Raheem Sterling has managed to stop the images of his miss from two yards out last Saturday from constantly running on a loop inside his minds-eye. I can close my eyes and still see it but I can only hope that he is made of sterner stuff and does not let that affect his otherwise excellent form in front of goal this season. Get back on the horse Raheem and bag a hat trick on Saturday
We have got to hope that the players will return refreshed and focused for an intense period of games during the next month. This period sees City return to Champions League action against Basel on Tuesday, face Championship Leaders Wigan in the FA Cup, take on Arsenal in the League Cup and League followed by a visit from the current Champions, Chelsea before the home leg in the Champions League on 7th March.
We are reaching the business end of the season now and Pep will be well aware that the hard yards put in by the players could come to naught if they are not ruthless in front of goal when they carve out chances. Everybody needs to be firing on all four of their cylinders even Kevin De Bruyne whose "I`m really tired" quotes after the Burnley game (http://www.football365.com/news/man-citys-schedule-makes-de-bruyne-feel-like-sht) were a bit disappointing in my eyes. Actually they were quite annoying to be honest. He may well be feeling the effects that having a reduced squad due to injuries are having on the players ……..but you don`t give your opponents any hint of weakness to seize upon. They can feel just a little more emboldened if they think you are not quite 'on your game` and with the margins in elite sport measured in millimetres or hundredths of seconds you can`t afford to show them any chink in your armour. Let`s hope Kevin is feeling less sh*t now after his break because he has been City`s stand out player this season and we need him at the top of his game.
This run of fixtures commences with a visit to the Etihad by Claude Puel and Leicester City. Still living in the glory days of their amazing triumph in the league in 2016, Leicester are currently sat in 8th place some 34 points behind their opponents and 15 points outside the Champions League places. Their last six games has seen them defeated only once - away to Everton - but with two of the three wins in these games coming against Fleetwood Town and Peterborough in the FA Cup a more realistic look at their Premier League form shows a slightly different pattern. Since mid-December their PL record stands P9 W2 D3 L4.
These facts however will be largely irrelevant come the weekend where the main focus will undoubtedly be "Where is Riyad Mahrez"? After City walked away shaking their head at Leciester`s valuation for the player he has been absent from training for the 2016 Champions and there have been reported of him being "very depressed". The situation remains unresolved at the time of writing this Preview but the longer it goes on the more untenable his position becomes within the Leicester squad. Players can forgive a lot including the ambition to play at a higher level - after all he sought a move during the summer transfer window but seemed to have no problem regaining his form during the season. But you have to feel that his attitude since the move fell through cannot but sour relations within the team and re-integrating him into the squad is going to be a delicate and potentially impossible task. I have serious doubts whether he will be at the Etihad on Saturday.
The question City have to ask themselves is whether they might still be interested in pursuing his signature given such a temperamental reaction. It is widely believed that Sanchez`s actions in respect of reneging on what is believed to have been agreed with him last summer played no small part in City pulling the plug on their pursuit of him last month. The potential disruption to squad harmony was perceived to a higher price to pay than the eye-watering wage demands. Mahrez`s reaction may actually have done him less favours than he realises as City may think again before considering whether to go back for the player in the summer. You have to wonder who is advising him. If anyone.
City await confirmation of the availability of David Silva and John Stones. Delph`s return date remains a mystery as does that of Phil Foden aka 'Patient Zero` in the catalogue of injuries inflicted upon City players by late tackles.
Leicester may well be without Wes Morgan.
Referee: Mike Jones
Assistants: Simon Long, Ian Hussin
Fourth official: Michael Oliver
Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko
De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva D
Silva B, Aguero, Sterling
Bravo, Danilo, Kompany, Gundogan, Toure, Diaz, Nmecha
Laporte may well be set for acquainting himself with the pace of Jamie "launchpad" Vardy and Aguero will doubtless feel the attentions of Harry Maguire at the other end. What is it about Leicester and their centre halves? In the absence of Huth, Maguire has manfully stepped into his "kick 'em high, kick 'em often" shoes and we can only hope that the referee Mike Jones has a stronger backbone than some of his colleagues in the PGMOL in dealing with late tackles. Phil Foden remains sidelined after Maguire chose to go through the young man in the dying minutes of their defeat against the Blues in the League Cup.
City once again will be playing before the Stretford Galacticos and The Orange. Time to keep the pressure up for a while at least by extending the lead to 17 (seventeen) points and adde to the goal difference. Come on boys - time for us to return to the fluent goal scoring days. The pain of that defeat in December 2016 at the King Power still rankles and it would be so nice to repay that debt with a thumping win on Saturday.
Come on City!!!
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