Date:Thursday February 24 2011
Thursday 24th February
City face Greek side Aris Salonika in the second leg of the last 32 round of the Europa Legaue. Aris beat last years winners Athletico home and away in the group stages and will be no push-overs tonight.
'We have a big problem, a lot of games and a lot of injuries. It is always going to be difficult when you are playing a match every three days. Injuries are a part of the game but at least we have all our strikers available. If we can keep it that way for the next three matches, we should be able to make progress.
'I hope (De Jong) can recover quickly because he's an important player.
'We will need to pay attention against Aris because 0-0 is not the best result away from home, but the pitch will be better and if we play well I'm sure we can score goals. We will need to play well, because Aris have shown they can get results away from home. They beat Atlético in Madrid.'
The absence of Richards has forced Mancini to delve into the EDS for cover. He has included Reece Wabara in the squad. The injuries to de Jong and Milner mean that Vieira will probably continue in midfield after his brace against Notts. Despite all the injuries, the number of attackers at Mancini's disposal is heartening. Balotelli returns after a clash of heads and Wright-Phillips should make the bench after over-coming a back problem.
Carlos Tevez is likely to start after linking well with Edin Dzeko in the latter stages of the weekends game. David Silva is another certainty to start whilst I am unsure whether Balotelli will also start, or whether Mancini will opt with a midfield three of Barry, Vieira and Yaya. Either option would please me.
Vincent Kompany should return, with his most likely partner being Jerome Boateng after he was rested for the FA Cup game. The ever-adaptable Pablo Zabaleta should shift to right back to compensate for the loss of Richards with Kolarov moving back to his familiar, left back position.
Probable City Team:
5) Zabaleta - 17) Boateng - 4) Kompany - 13) Kolarov
8) SWP - 24) Vieira - 18) Barry
32) Tevez - 10) Dzeko
After yet another accomplished performance against Notts County, Mancini will be looking to his Spanish playmaker to pick some gaps in the Aris defence and complete the job in normal time. With an important Premier League fixture at the weekend, RM will want the game won within 60 minutes so that he can take-off the key players. Silva's influence should be key though, his ability to create space for others should provide the strikers with ample shooting opportunities.
I have to admit, I don't know much about our opponents tonight. Other than they have three wonderfully named players, that I'm sure the crowd will 'get behind them!' Firstly, they have a Ronaldo in the centre of defence who dealt admirably with Dzeko in the first leg, to his credit. In central midfield there is Faty, who is realtively scrawny, despite the name. Lastly, there is Neto who plays on the right wing. He was Aris' biggest goal-threat in the first leg and looked like a bit of a player. He will have to be watched tonight.
Probable Aris Team:
Vangjeli - Ronaldo - Lazaridis - Michel
Neto - Prittas - Faty - Sakata
The direct right winger caused City some problems in the first leg, forcing a very good save out of Hart with a powerful long range effort. He likes a shot and will be eager to cut-in and fire powerfully across Joe's goal.
Obviously, the aim is progression to the next round. And with the approaching fixture congestion, Mancini will be keen to win the game in normal time. Despite the looming Fulham game, I'm sure Mancini will play a strong side, with the likes of Kompany and Tevez returning to the starting line up. Wright-Phillips is another likely to return and hopefully he will provide some genuine width this time around, supplying Dzeko or Balotelli with crosses. I'm not expecting things to be that comfortable - the lack of an away goal on our part, and the possibility of Aris snatching an away goal make me slightly nervous. But if we start well and get an early goal, it should be easy. Prediction: MCFC 2 - 0 Aris.
Sunday 27th February v Fulham (H)
Wednesday 2nd March v Villa, FA Cup (H)
Date:Thursday February 24 2011
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