After the last three games, City’s weekend fixture looks very good on paper. Lying in 17th place, Hull are one of several teams in this year’s relegation dogfight. However, since Marco Silva’s hiring at the start of the calendar year, Hull have picked up 17 points out of a possible 33 which is far from relegation form. In this run they’ve beaten Liverpool and took a point from Old Trafford, though these days that’s harder not to do. Their away form will give City hope though, as they’ve failed to win a single away game under Silva.
City picked up 2 points in the tough trio, though our performances perhaps deserved better. Tomorrow, surely, no such excuses can be employed as City really should look to put away relegation candidates, and hopefully we can do it with some style. I’d take a boring 1:0, though.
Wednesday gave us the surprise starts of injury prone duo Fabian Delph and Vincent Kompany, both of whom appeared to play the 90 minutes unscathed. When asked in today’s press conference, Pep said he’d ‘ask the physio’ if they could play tomorrow, which for me means there are no definitive problems with them and both could feature. Pep added that Delph ‘needs more minutes’ as he was excellent against Chelsea. Gabriel Jesus has returned to training this week but it is still too soon for him to return, let alone to start, as unfortunate as that may seem. Bacary Sagna seemingly remains out alongside Gündoğan, who I mention for fear of forgetting him.
Return to Zab
There has been an awakening. Have you felt it? Jesus Navas at right back. Now, Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. You’ve been a… decent player for the past few years, and I’ll definitely remember you for 2013/14. Unfortunately, not much else. Other than the abuse on my timeline and from the people around me at City, not much else at all. Rumour has it he’s enrolled his kids back into Spanish school starting next year. Pep gave it one last try, putting him at right back against Arsenal, which, well, it didn’t go terribly, but it wasn’t exactly a success. I think this weekend needs a return to the tried and tested Zabaleta. With Sagna out injured, and Navas still perhaps transitioning to a more defensive mindset, Zabaleta’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the game and rugged ability will be needed against Hull’s wingers, as Silva has managed to get the best out of wingers Kamil Grosicki and Lazar Markovic.
When Zabaleta moves on this summer, the club will have lost some of its very soul, there’ll never be another Pablo.
As I mentioned in the What We Learned from Wednesday night, Kevin De Bruyne is in need of a rest. I went on to say that he is, in many ways, undroppable thanks to his ability to produce in the blink of an eye, but to be honest I could see Pep resting him for a game this weekend. After resting Raheem against Chelsea, the idea of Pep rotating his star players in big games isn’t as far off as one might think. Kevin has been a little off for a while now, although he constantly produces a chance or two, perhaps it might be prudent to give him a rest. If things aren’t looking rosy after 60 minutes then by all means sub him on, but really, with Raheem, Silva and Leroy in attacking midfield, we should have enough to breach Hull’s defence. Perhaps we could replace Kevin with Navas, or plump for Nolito, or even do the unthinkable and play two strikers. But I think that Yaya Touré will be the one to replace Kevin. Fernandinho has looked a little shaky recently in midfield and his traditional partner Yaya has impressed since the Great Thaw. Yaya’s ability to sit and ping balls about will help release David Silva from some defensive duties, too.
Vincent has made numerous comebacks, and Vincent has suffered numerous setbacks. Yet, on the plus side, he played the full game on Wednesday with no issues. Whilst Pep seemed to imply both he and Delph are in contention, I’d be surprised if either started tomorrow, though I think they’ll both be on the bench. Stones looked very comfortable next to Kompany which could imply a very bright future for our backline, if he manages to stay fit. There’s been a few articles recently mourning Kompany, and before he’d played the 90 minutes against Chelsea I thought he’d be leaving for sure. But who knows now? If he can see out the season injury free, maybe Pep will be convinced that Kompany is worth taking another chance on. However, throwing him straight back into the fray would perhaps be very Pellegrini. With the derby and an FA Cup semi-final looming, Kompany is needed and another injury could very well spell the end of his career here.
Pep will most likely do something completely unlike this. Maybe 3 at the back, maybe 6 in midfield, maybe even 2 up front. At least we have more fun than the classic days of Pellegrini’s 4-4-2.