Writer: Gavin Cooper
Date:Sunday September 21 2008
City of Manchester Stadium
21st September 2008
A crucial match for both sides after both teams had good results in Europe on Thursday. A defeat for either team would make a reasonable start into something very much below par.
Mark Hughes talks about the arrangements for today's game: 'It was a quick turnaround, we stayed in Cyprus to get all the recovery done before flying back to Manchester on Friday, and I hope that helps us with regard to Portsmouth. They are a good side again this year and they have to travel for an away Premier League game on the back of a UEFA Cup tie on Thursday as well, but we'll be prepared,'
Hughes also talks about our new Argentinian right back Pablo Zabaleta: 'I thought Pablo was excellent against Omonia,' adds Hughes. 'The timing of his runs, when he knew he had to join in an attack, his recognising situations as they developed were all top class. He is going to be a great asset for us.'
Michael Johnson remains a doubt with a groin strain, while Martin Petrov is still to recover from a hamstring strain, meaning Hughes will probably continue with the same midfield quartet of Elano, Stephen Ireland, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Vincent Kompany. Although Elano needs to show more if he is to keep a place in the side in the long run.
I also expect Michael Ball to come back into the defence to replace Javier Garrido who was exposed a few times against Omonia.
Robinho and Jo are set to lead the attack once again, with the former converting a free-kick - with the aide of a deflection - against Chelsea last week, handing him a goal on his debut.
Tal Ben Haim is likely to continue on the bench, with Micah Richards and Richard Dunne reforming their solid partnership in the heart of City's defence.
Former Portsmouth player Benjani Mwaruwari has failed to recover from his thigh strain in time to face his former club.
Kelvin Etuhu has recovered from his hamstring strain. City are still without long term injuries of Valeri Bojinov and Darius Vassell.
I would also like to wish the Dunney Monster a very happy twenty ninth birthday today.
He looks to have settled into the side very well and his link up play with Jo and Shaun Wright-Phillips is showing real signs of flourishing in a very attacking team.
Harry Redknapp is likely to opt for the same starting eleven that saw off Guimares, with Peter Crouch partnering the in-form Defoe up-front.
Nadir Belhadj was also on-song in the side's last match, setting up the former Tottenham Hotspur man and earning a standing ovation from the club's faithful, and he will continue at left-back.
Portsmouth may rest wingers Armand Traore and John Utaka, so Younes Kaboul and Papa Bouba Diop could return.
Ben Sahar has a knee injury, Niko Kranjcar (ankle) and Jerome Thomas (back) are still out so fit-again Glen Little has a chance to make the starting line-up.
Has started the season in real hot scoring form and City's defence will have to be alert to stop him getting on the scoresheet again.
Portsmouth have only faced City in the premiership at Middle Eastlands and have yet to return to the south coast with more than one point. Portsmouth also hold the distinction to play the first league game at COMS.
You have to go back to 13 November 1954 for the last time that Portsmouth won at City in the top flight.
Portsmouth fans are certainly one of the best out there as they really act like a twelth man and despite the distance to Manchester always bring a good following.
Alan Wiley - first game for both clubs this season. He referee'd the famous balloongate game at Sheffield United last season. Apart from that he has always seemed to have a fair game with City.
Portsmouth are a strong team and I cannot see City stopping them scoring; however I think City have more fire power than Portsmouth and will just edge it. MCFC 2 - 1 PFC.
Brighton away in the Carling Cup on Wednesday 24th September with a 7:45pm kick off at the Withdean.
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Date:Sunday September 21 2008
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