Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 12 April 2016
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP)
Kick off: 19:45
Apologies for the lack of a West Brom match report, everyone – just another manic Sunday. If you’re arsed, there would have been some praise for Nasri, a bit on why Delph will probably only ever be a bit part player and maybe even a few controversial lines discussing the errors that are creeping into Joe Hart’s game.
Nevertheless, a top weekend overall. It was an incredibly important victory for us on a weekend where Arsenal, West Ham and United all dropped points. Arsenal are bottle jobs; the way they crumbled at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday wasn’t all that surprising, but I thought United would get something at White Hart Lane. Their record there is pretty impressive and they’ve got this ability to suck the life out of teams without demonstrating any vitality of their own. Fair play to Poch and Spurs, though – it was a dicking in the end.
And on a side note, wasn’t it great to see Spieth cock the 12th up? The lad is an outstanding golfer, but watching a bloke a year younger than myself climb the ladders of success while I allow myself to be consumed by the large jaws of degradation on Tinder on a Sunday isn’t ideal. So congratulations Danny Willett, even if you are a Liverpool fan.
Anyway, back to the football. We’ll all be watching a pretty big game of it on Tuesday night.
According to William Labov (a linguist you’ll probably have never heard of), there are six basic elements of storytelling. The Abstract: how does it begin? In our case, the story began eight years ago in 2008 when a group of unreasonably wealthy men infatuated with the Champions League bought out the club. Success at home made them smile, failure on the continent made them frown. On Tuesday, there’s a real chance of Manchester City turning that frown upside down.
The Orientation: Who/what does it involve, and when/where? French champions Paris Saint Germain are the opponents. They claimed Ligue 1 for the fourth year in a row – this seems to be a formality even before the season begins – and they’ll clump back home to five insignificant fixtures should they exit the quarter finals of the Champions League tomorrow. The Etihad stadium will host the clash and in excess of 51,000 tickets have already been sold. The club have had their way.
In 24 hours we’ll find out what happens next: the Complicating Action. Goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Fernandinho ensured the boys would leave the Parc des Princes last week with two away goals that could prove to be crucial in the tie. Will the lads use those goals to their advantage or do they put us in an awkward position whereby it’s going to be difficult to decide on a suitable approach for this second leg?
Pellegrini is labeled as an agonisingly one-dimensional tactician but has shown tactical diversity in Europe this season. There was an interesting article published by Four Four Two last week that discussed our midfield and how the team has performed much better against top 8 and Champions League opposition when we’ve controlled less of the possession. In four of our best performances this term (coincidentally all in the Champions League) against PSG last Wednesday, the 3-1 win over Sevilla in the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, the 3-1 victory in Kiev and the 4-2 comeback against Gladbach at home, we’ve controlled an average of 46% of the ball. Pellegrini is happy to soak up the pressure in Europe, especially away from home, and punish the opposition with swift counter-attacking moves propelled by Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne.
What worries me slightly about tomorrow is the fact we’re at home with an advantage. Stupid, right? My fear is that Pellegrini – the Jekyll and Hyde of football managers – could become intoxicated once again by his addiction to all-out attacking football and go with the same 11 that played in Paris five days ago. ‘But we played well?’ I hear you say. Well yes, but I feel that even with all their injuries and suspensions, PSG come into this game much stronger than they did last week and that keeping the midfield as tight as possible will be the key to progressing into the semi-final.
Blaise Matuidi and David Luiz will both miss the game through suspension and are likely to have their places filled by Marco Verratti and Marquinhos. The former, who has been included in Blanc’s squad after recovering from a calf problem, is much more of a controlling influence in the centre of the park while Marquinhos is heads and shoulders ahead of Luiz in terms of defending. Javier Pastore and Kevin Trapp will also travel with the PSG team after shrugging off injuries.
Vincent Kompany trained with his teammates today but is not fit enough to play tomorrow, says the gaffer. There were also concerns for Nicolas Otamendi after the Argentine missed today’s session with an ankle injury, but Pellegrini insists he’ll be fine to play alongside Mangala. No Demichelis – happy days. Yaya Touré made a brief return to action as a substitute in the 2-1 win over Brom on Saturday and is likely to start in a midfield three.
So after the Complicating Action, which hopefully involves Manchester City reaching the semi finals of the Champions League, what happens next? There’s the Resolution: What finally happened? Beers. The Evaluation: So what? City are in the semis, what do you mean so what?! And the Coda: What does it all mean? Milan, obviously. That’s if all goes to plan, of course. Many stories do not, but please, PLEASE, let this one be a fairytale.
Predict the score:
[statsfc-score-predictor key=”D8SJIk7F6vySBuDaFQRSHy11xfbyCt18uXRinj2b” team=”Man City” date=”2016-04-12″ default_css=”true”]