This is the game we have got to win if we want to have any hope at all of a T4 finish. And not only that, we need to get our show back on the road. Earlier in the season I ran a ruler over the two squads and concluded that the weakness Manchester City have is at centre back where Toure and Lescott have still not established a successful partnership. Whoever we play up front we need to exploit that and throwing hopeful balls into the area from 100 yards is not going to be helpful to our cause.
City will be without Bellamy but they have such riches up front that our hearts will remain in our mouths for the duration of the game. The bloke who used to play for Arsenal and usually scored against us will be back and we should keep a close eye on him. Can Bassong and Dawson keep these guys marked at set pieces to give us something to build upon? It’s going to be one of the tales of the tape come 10.00 tomorrow night.
Elsewhere Wright-Phillips is injured De Jong a doubt and Modric not quite ready to start. Therefore it will be Saturday’s starting midfield for us with a toss up of Dos Santos or Jenas for the bench alongside Luka. I would go with Keane and Defoe once more and hope that the link play lives up to the early games of the season. For me it is important for Defoe to get an early shot as it settles him and encourages him to play the team game. Saturday’s performance mirrored a number of his games for the club. Over anxious from a lack of involvement he tries too hard to gets shots off ignoring the run of others. If he scores it is great but in these games it rarely happens.
So to the fullbacks. Bridge is a doubt for them and for us Corluka was too slow Saturday and Assou-Ekotto a little off on his first touch. They can both play better and need to do so to hold off Bale and Hutton. Unfortunately Bale showed against Everton why he has not been starting in this position all too easily allowing the Everton debutant to get round the back and cross so Benoit will start. Both guys need to work well with their wingers and because City may fancy it more than Wolves did I expect Lennon and Kranjcar to get opportunities top create problems.
If they do we can win it; if they don’t we may well struggle.
Finally, Tom Huddlestone and Wilson Palacios. Wilson needs to mark his territory and stick to it winning the ball and laying it to others to do damage. Tommy needs to mix it up. His Hoddle like balls are fantastic but he must decide on occasions to push through the middle carrying the ball in an effort to create doubt in the defenders mind and create space for RK and JD. We know he can score but he won’t unless he shoots. He cannot do that if he remains too deep looking for the showboat pass.
Whatever the result I hope we see a good game. If we play well and lose I will accept that. I won’t like it but City have power throughout the side and we have not been on song in the last few games sufficiently to close them out.
Love to see a 2-1 to us but a draw may be a good result. Whatever happens let’s all get behind the team!
16 minutes was all that Aaron Lennon got against Ukraine as he was sacrificed to allow David James to come on after Robert Green became the first England goalkeeper to be sent off on Saturday. It was unfortunate; Lennon was playing well and was attracting two defenders whenever he got the ball to reduce his threat. Unfortunately during the BBC highlights commentary Mark Bright was critical of Aaron’s delivery when he broke into the box. Excuse me Mark how many caps did you win? Peter Crouch did not feature in the named squad.
Elsewhere Robbie Keane played for the Republic of Ireland in their 2-2 draw against Italy which was close to being a 2-1 win. Gareth Bale also played for Wales in their loss in Finland and Wilson Palacios won another Honduran cap in a home loss to the USA. Roman Pavulychenko came on a second half substitute for Russia against Germany and astonished me by not scoring in a 0-1 defeat which sent the Germans through to next years finals.
Neither Bassong or Assou-Ekotto made an appearance for Cameroon in their 3-0 win against Togo but Corluka and Kranjcar played in the Croatian 3-2 friendly win against Qatar with Corluka opening the scoring in 7 minutes with a header. He was later substituted.
Having struggled to find a decent feed of the game I tuned in to see Bolton celebrating their opening goal. Already concerned by our starting back four for our most physical away game of the season it took one minute to crystallise my fears.
After 20 minutes I was even more worried for we had our backs to the wall and had little decent play of our own. We then started to get the ball down and play it around with some confidence resulting in an equaliser from Kranjcar following a decent cross from Palacios that Crouch nodded back for a volley in from around 12 yards.
We were decent in central midfield and it was Jenas who picked up the predicted card for a slightly late sliding effort. As the half wore on he and Palacios started to capitalise and we looked the more likely to score at half time.
Having got back into the game my concern was can we keep them out for another 45 minutes? After starting brightly and continuing to dominate the play it looked pretty likely until another casual piece of defending at the back post allowed Kevin Davies to put Bolton back in front. Frankly it was poor in that Davies did what everyone knows he will do; use all of his strength to get the ball into the back of the net.
Not to be put off we had a few decent efforts before Corluka managed to equalise from a Kranjcar corner heading it back across the goal and into the near corner. From there we pressed with Defoe, on for Keane, and Crouch both having opportunities to make Jaaskelainen show his ability.
Lennon was useful on the counter and I am liking his new found ability to contribute in winning the ball back and make tackles. Jenas had a decent game and is starting to look like he knows what to do with the ball in open play.
It was felt to be a game we could win but after being one down in a minute, not having a shot until equalising after 25 minutes and then falling behind for a second time a draw is a pretty reasonable result particularly when considering that we usually crumble in such circumstances. At least we continued to look for a winner on a ground we have never won at before.