Monday, 23 August 2010

Liverpool preview

This is the flip-side of our high expectations game. For the first time in probably forty years we go into a game with Liverpool knowing that if we do not beat them it will be a failure. I suppose this makes sense - we finished two positions and four points ahead of them last year. But it is strange, and difficult.

The position of comfort going into these matches is the low expectation game. Anything we get is a gift. When Kiki Musampa volleyed our winner in 2004/05 the thrill was in the surprise, the steal. A last minute winner tonight would be wonderful but it would represent the fulfilling of expectations, not their upturning. Which leads to an awkward sort of tension.

It's also the first home game of Mancini's new team, the home debuts of those new buys that haven't got injured, Mario Balotelli's first game in English domestic football, James Milner's first for City. This certainly feels like the start of something.

If I have one concern, it is that two of those new signings - Aleksandar Kolarov and Jérôme Boateng - are injured. I think that Mancini is likely to go with the same system we saw in Timişoara; that corset-narrow 4-1-2-2-1. For it to have any dynamism or fluidity, it needs athletic and incisive attacking full-backs. Kolarov and Boateng fit the bill perfectly - as they showed in the friendly against Valencia. Joleon Lescott and Pablo Zabaleta do not. The game last Thursday was a reminder why Lescott had never played full-back before for City (he doesn't know what to do with the ball in the final third), while Zabaleta - much as I love him - does not have the pace to be as incisive as he needs to be.

The team is fairly predictable. Balotelli probably won't start, meaning Carlos Tévez and David Silva dropping off Emmanuel Adebayor. James Milner should come into midfield to play as an alternating piston with Yaya Touré, leaving the last decision as Nigel de Jong or Gareth Barry in front of the back four. I'm going to guess de Jong, which is probably my preference; it would not spoil my evening's entertainment if he happened to mistime a tackle on Steven Gerrard.

This fixture has been 0-0 two of the past three seasons. The game last year was the most boring match I have ever seen. I'm not expecting much better tonight, but I'm going to say it will be settled by a set-piece. 1-0.


Johnny Crossan said...

Lescott's performance at left back last week was most encouraging - hopefully he will continue to improve as he gets more matches and by the time Kolarov is fit he'll be back to his pre-injury form and pushing Kompany into Kolo's spot.

TPB said...

I think you underrate Zab going forward, yes he isn't Maicon but he'll run up and down the righthand side for 90 miunutes and when he does get in a good position you can be sure he'll put in a better cross than Richards.

I think we might go barry/yaya/de jong and leave milner on the bench - or mancini oculd go ultra defensive and play him in the front 3 instead of aj

William Samuel said...

Good luck tonight Jack. 2-0 City is my prediction, for what it's worth.

P.S. Remember this:

"It would not spoil my evening's entertainment if he happened to mistime a tackle on Steven Gerrard."

Stay classy, Jack.

JPB said...

Touché, William Samuel, if that is your real name.

Blue Moon said...

My keys to the game...

-- Mascherano: if he gets booked early, then I think we have a decent chance of being able to play through the middle without using wingers.

-- Tevez and Silva: when Tevez drops deep to get the ball, Silva needs to make the forward run through the centerback/fullback channel. Otherwise, we really will be just pinging the ball uselessly infront of Mascherano and the back 4.

-- Yaya: needs to have a couple of decent long range efforts to draw the defense out. I really see this match as a bit of a midfield struggle as long as it remains scoreless. Yaya testing Reina will force the central defenders out, and make it more likely that Mascherano commits a foolish challenge.

Jeff said...

I'm not sure about the three holding midfielders. Is this a bone of contention with City supporters?