Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 5 November 2016
Referee: Kevin Friend
Kick off: 15:00
UK TV: Not on TV.
City produced a thriller of a performance on Tuesday, the day after Halloween. Luis Enrique’s Barcelona were stunned as the Blues dominated the Catalans in the second half of a Champions League Group game.
The result is our first positive one against Barcelona, despite a number of attempts. A result that is sure to inspire confidence in the City camp. So, who’s next? It’s Middlesbrough at the Etihad – so what is there to consider?
City Must Win For More Reasons Than Just Three Points
Beating Barcelona is a massive accomplishment. It’s not one that should be taken lightly. What is more impressive though is the way in which City toyed with Lionel Messi and co. in the second half of the game. However, football is about so much more than just one game. If Pep’s side don’t record another win at home to Middlesbrough on Saturday, we may as well have lost to Barcelona. I know it sounds dramatic, but Tuesday’s game was all about confidence moving forward. If City are unable to build on that fantastic result, it may as well have not happened. As it is, Middlesbrough are a plucky side. But, in comparison to Tuesday’s night’s opponents – they shouldn’t cause City a problem. The key is to retain a level of intensity. City need to approach the game with the same importance as they did on Tuesday. If they do that, it will leave our opponents from the North-East needing more than just a miracle.
Certain Players Have a Role to Play
It’s hard to pick a player on Tuesday who had a poor game. Honestly, on the whole – every player showed his worth and came through for Guardiola. Of course, the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan grabbed the plaudits, but this was a team effort. But, there were many unfancied players who had a role to play in midweek – Jesus Navas, Fernando, and Willy Caballero. Even the likes of Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov were inspiring some doubt when team news was released at around 6.45 on Tuesday. All five covered themselves in glory though, and showed that they still have something to offer this side. In my opinion, Caballero is showing just why Hart was loaned to Torino. His willingness to at least try to play Guardiola’s game is telling. Fernando came on for Fernandinho, and replaced his Brazilian teammate more than adequately. Jesus Navas provided an important cross for our third goal. Zabaleta and Kolarov were completely solid throughout. All five players have bought themselves time with a man who has already shown himself to be ruthless with has-beens and fan favourites. It gives City more options, and if this group of deputies are able to fill in regularly, Pep will be delighted with his range of resources.
A Run of Wins is On
Let’s be honest, before last Saturday’s win at West Brom, it seemed inconceivable that City would win the next two. We were six without a win, with an away game, followed by Barcelona. As it is, City won both games comfortably and are now looking toward what could be another run of wins. The aim must be to record two league wins consecutively now, with Middlesbrough at home and Crystal Palace away. Such form would take us to Germany to face Monchengladbach with the most positive of feel-good factors. In honesty, a draw would do just fine in Germany, and then it’s back to our domestic campaign. City then travel to Burnley where a draw or worse would be a complete failure. City next face off against a title rival when Chelsea visit the Etihad in December. Understandably, it’s a tricky game on paper – but if our form going into the game consisted of mainly victories, it’d be hard not to fancy us at home. It’s time for City to try and move away from the pack now, and they won’t get many better opportunities, starting on Saturday against Middlesbrough.
On Saturday, there will be several duels to watch out for; and it’s hard not to be romantic about one of City’s former heroes (albeit briefly), Alvaro Negredo. He’ll be up against Nicolas Otamendi in all likelihood on Saturday, and I’m fascinated to see how it plays out. Both have aerial pedigree, both are big, physical guys who use their bodies effectively. I’m intrigued to see who bullies the other over 90 minutes, with Negredo being no pushover.
I expect City to come out all guns blazing on Saturday. On the back of a massive win against Barcelona, the only vibe surrounding the club at the moment is surely that of positivity. Middlesbrough though have proven themselves on occasion to be plucky opponent. An early goal for the Blues could lead to a demolition. If not, things might be a little more frustrating. Regardless, I expect three points and a comfortable scoreline. 3-0 City.
Predict the score:
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