Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 6 December 2016
Referee: Slavko Vinčić
Kick off: 19:45
When the Champions League group stage fixtures were released, it seemed unlikely to think that City’s match at home to Celtic would have no relevance with regards to the final standings. City head into tomorrow’s meeting with the Glaswegian giants knowing that win, lose or draw, they will finish in second place behind Barcelona.
So, what is there to consider ahead of this dead-rubber tie?
The starting XI will be experimental
City’s loss to Chelsea last Saturday came as a hugely disappointing blow in a season that has seen City struggle at home already. The game against Celtic isn’t likely to cure the hurt acquired from the Chelsea game, but instead gives Pep a chance to try out some of his younger or unfancied players. I mentioned recently that I felt Iheanacho should be given some more game time. This looks like a certainty now, with Sergio Aguero out for the next four Premier League games. However, with Kun suspended for the upcoming domestic games, we could be more likely to see the Argentinian start tomorrow night. Nevertheless, I think that Iheanacho should be given a start tomorrow in order to get him fit and firing for the next round of vital Premier League games. The midfield tomorrow night won’t consist of Yaya Toure, however it might be an opportunity to give Fernando some minutes. Defensively, it’s anyone’s guess. In my opinion, it’s like choosing from a range of misfits, and I’m sure whoever Pep decides to put out, they’ll manage to ship a few calamitous goals. Either way, I’d be surprised if tomorrow night’s line-up was the strongest available to Pep. Though, a failure to win against the group’s bottom side would add more unnecessary pressure onto the team and its manager.
Defensively, we are shambolic. Offensively, we are toothless
This section is a bit of a cheat, because I could’ve used it in quite a few of the previews I’ve done this season. Defensively, City are a mess, and it’s just as likely to come back and bite us tomorrow night as it would be any other game. On Saturday, I felt that Pep had got the system largely correct. City dominated for 60 or so minutes and had Chelsea on the ropes. However, City’s toothless finishing in the final third was yet again there for all to see. With chance after chance missed, it was only a matter of time before Diego Costa found a yard. City squander multiple chances, the opposition scores their first half-chance – a familiar story. Until this changes, we won’t achieve anything under Guardiola. It’s been repeated a few times already this year. Against Barcelona in both games, we wasted big chances. Thankfully in the home game, we weren’t punished (though we should’ve been when Andre Gomes rattled the crossbar). Against Middlesbrough, Everton and Southampton, City dominated parts of the game, but couldn’t finish big chances; in all three of those games, we shipped a singular silly goal to assure we didn’t take home all three points. Tomorrow night is perhaps a chance to focus on correcting these problems, at least in the short-term. The aim should be an emphatic win to nil. Have the forwards finishing and the defenders sturdy. Building momentum for the upcoming fixtures is the priority for tomorrow, and a dull 1-1 draw is the last way to do it.
Rome wasn’t built in a day
Now don’t get me wrong, the section above this one is still absolutely valid. However, it should be noted that Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City project will not be complete after five months in charge. Whilst City do look frail at the back and anything but clinical at the front, it’s too early to judge Pep on these faults. We can look at the defence and claim that it’s too weak (which is true), but it’s going to take more than one transfer window to fix the countless problems in personnel. As for attacking players missing chances, there’s little Pep can do. We created more than enough on Saturday to have Chelsea finished after an hour, instead we missed chance after chance and were inevitably punished for it by (in my opinion) the league’s best side. However, the signs are promising. Away from home we look a much more solid unit than in previous seasons. At home, the problems aren’t catastrophic, they are fixable. I saw a lot of discontent toward Pep after the Chelsea game, but it really is too early to judge the man. Those naive enough to think he would simply arrive and romp the league should’ve known better, this team isn’t ready to dominate anything; it won’t be ready for another season or so. Give the man at least a season to get his team together and we will reap the benefits. Mark my words.
Moussa Dembele had his way with City at the game at Celtic Park a couple of months ago, and he’s my pick of danger man once again. Defensively, it’s hard to pick who’ll start for City, but if John Stones is in the starting XI, I think he’s the best equipped to slow the young, French striker down. For the time being though, you wouldn’t back a City defender against Bernado Corradi, so it could be a long evening for our defence.
Who knows? In all honesty, the team is impossible to guess, which makes life hard on this front. I do expect though that whatever team we put out, it should be enough to get the job done. Do I expect a clean sheet? Absolutely not. I do however expect a few goals. 3-1 City.
Predict the score:
[statsfc-score-predictor key=”D8SJIk7F6vySBuDaFQRSHy11xfbyCt18uXRinj2b” team=”Man City” date=”2016-12-05″ default_css=”true”]