Saturday, 21 March 2009

Sunderland preview

While it's true that the UEFA Cup quarter-final is now the main focus for the season, that doesn't mean that we can afford to turn our attention away from the league. It's so tight that we could very easily finish anywhere from seventh through to seventeenth (or below). At the end of Saturday's 3pm kick offs, we are (with a game in hand) just six points behind West Ham in seventh, but only three points ahead of Stoke and Portsmouth.

So a win tomorrow puts us just three points away from Europa League qualification; a loss and we're in for a very uncomfortable run in. Both the opportunity of success and the danger of real failure mean that our league campaign cannot be relegated too far from our attention. Fortunately, we have what should be a rather predictable last nine league games. Five easily winnable home games: Sunderland, Fulham, WBA, Bolton, Blackburn, and four unwinnable away games: Arsenal, Everton, Manchester United and Spurs. (We could just get a point at White Lart Lane, but we probably won't.)

The important thing, then, is just to win these last five games. Our home form this year has been good - only United have more than our nine league wins - and recent wins against Aalborg and Aston Villa were as good team performances as we've produced this year. Can we do it again tomorrow? I hope so: Sunderland have won one of the last twelve league games, and that was at home against Stoke City. With Bozhinov and de Jong eligible to play we should still be able to put out a good side, even if none of the injury doubts play:

And this is a worst case scenario: Kompany and Bellamy could well make it, even if Bridge and Ireland are less likely to. (And for what it's worth, we've won our last three games against Sunderland. Our only away league win of this season was the 3-0 at the Stadium of Light, with goals from Ireland and two from Wright-Phillips. Four months before we won 2-1 (Elano and Vassell) and earlier that season Ireland score the only goal in a 1-0 home win.)

So we really should win. We do need to. And I'm going to predict Robinho's first goals of 2009 in a 2-0 win.


Jack said...

"And for what it's worth, we've won our last three games against Sunderland"
By my reckoning we have won the last seven on the trot against Sunderland. Just wish "can we play you every week" lol.

Ryan H. said...

Something to take note of is that the first time we played Sunderland, City's previous match was also against a Danish side resulting in City advancing in the UEFA Cup on penalties.

pjdemers said...

Crucial three points as Fulham and Spurs won. A win here and we almost assured of not falling into a possible relegation battle and instead can try and build momentum for both the EPL and UEFA Cup.

I'm still quite uncomfortable about Garrido starting as I think Malbranque could give him a torrid afternoon. I think it could be time City drop the idea of Garrido as a left back and look to utilize him as a left winger/midfielder. Looks the part going forward but defensively is a liability and the game against Aalborg is not the only example. Does Berti Glauber possibly get a game in?

Would also like to see SWP constantly flying down the right taking on defenders (a la Aston Villa). He was much too conservative in his play at Aalborg. Same with Robinho.

All the remaining home games are indeed winnable but its worth remembering that teams like Blackburn & WBA will be fighting for their lives. Sunderland will approach this game in the same way.

As far as our dismal away form, we simply play way too conservatively. Call me crazy but I expect, no demand, a good performance at the swamp. Our home display against the Rags was a disgrace. Hopefully we'll have the added incentive of denting their title hopes. But first thing first. Let's get 3 point against the Black Cats.

Gary Nolan said...

I am not nervous about Garrido playing. Before he got dropped he was getting better game by game and for me should never have been dropped. Now he has to get back into the swing of things, thats all.