Writer: Andy Leggott
Date:Saturday December 3 2005
Two of the Premiership's early pace setters go head to head live from The Valley on Sunday. After promising starts both teams have hit a run of poor form recently and find themselves stuck in mid-table looking for the win that could re-ignite their seasons.
Stuart Pearce recognises that his honeymoon period as City boss is over and acknowledges the need for his team to start picking up some points.
'In this job you learn very quickly. Things might go quite well one week, but it only takes one defeat and the question marks creep in.'
Alan Curbishly, meanwhile, is looking to end a poor run of form with a win that could take Charlton back into the top ten.
'We are all disappointed, but we have to look at ourselves and say if we win on Sunday, we're back in the top 10.'
Charlton have Kishishev banned for this fixture but expect Luke Young to shake off a virus and take his place.
The goals aren't coming like they did early season but should still pose a threat.
City are expected to field Joey Barton despite a hugely stressful week for the midfielder which saw his brother sentenced to prison for murder. Claudio Reyna is expected to return from injury which could see Stevie Ireland rested after a tough time against Liverpool. Trevor Sinclair is included in the squad and could start ahead of Lee Croft wide on the right. Robbie Fowler may well start on the bench as Stuart Pearce seeks to dispel rumours that the forward is on his way out of the club.
Looking the better of the two forwards at the moment and when Darius scores City win .... simple really.
Charlton enter the game on the back of a five game losing streak while City fare little better having failed to win in the last three games and having lost their last three fixtures on the road. City are unbeaten in five against Charlton, the last fixture at The Valley seeing Charlton grab a last gasp equaliser after City had dominated. Fortunately Jon Macken won't be on the pitch this season so if we create half the chances that we did last year we may get something from the game.
Phil Dowd .... Not one of City's more controversial refs. Hopefully he'll let the game flow.
Tough to call with both teams displaying poor form of late. The return of Reyna should strengthen City's midfield but I still worry where the goals are coming from. However only Fulham have managed to put more than 1 past us this season so defensively we are strong. I'll stick my neck out on this one and predict a close City win, 1-0.
10/12/05 West Brom (a)
17/12/05 Birmingham (h) 5.15pm
26/12/05 Wigan (a)
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Date:Saturday December 3 2005
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