Thursday, 26 August 2010

Timişoara preview

The hard work is done. I don't have the statistics to hand but I am sure that a large majority of teams who won the first leg 1-0 away from home progress in Europe. We will need to guard against complacency, not give away silly goals etcetera etcetera etcetera but given how limited Timişoara looked in Romania I am fairly confident that at the very least we will be able to take them to extra time.

Given that this game will be our easiest of the season so far, it will be the first to face the transforming wind of Roberto Mancini's rotation policy. There is a very strong case for heavy rotation this year (we have lots of players, some of whom aren't in our first eleven but are nevertheless good, we have lots of games to play in) but we have kept things fairly steady in the first three games. I'm pleased I don't have to guess the team for tonight, so it's a relief that Daniel Taylor saw them in training yesterday and wrote this might be the team:

Obviously Shay Given is just a hunch of mine, but it looks decreasingly likely that he will go to Fulham, and so he will play these sorts of games. The outfield team has a strong spine while allowing games for those that need them (with first starts of the season for Dedryck Boyata, Patrick Vieira and Jô). I think it's notable that Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong, the two most vocal, reliable and responsible players in the squad are those that are maintained to provide consistency and leadership in what we do not want to be an entirely shadow eleven.

It's also important that David Silva plays in what should be a good platform for him: a home game with a UEFA referee should allow him the time he needs. Out on the left might not be his favoured position but he played there in Euro 2008 and did well enough. My concern is that strike partnership. Jô replicates Adebayor's faults but few of his strengths. I have dread visions of our losing an early goal and then spending the rest of the game with each of our strikers stationed, inertly, on either touchline. I just hope Carlos Tévez is on the bench.

But I do think we'll win, and over tonight's 90 minutes as well. And we will get to enjoy the Europa League group stage draw tomorrow.

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