Date: 29th January 2016 at 5:20pm
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Manchester City travel to the midlands for their 4th round tie in the FA Cup this weekend knowing that their success in reaching the League Cup Final next month has come at a significant cost.

The sweet taste of victory and the securing of the club`s eight visit to Wembley in five seasons has been marred by the bitter realisation that they will do so without the game changing abilities of Kevin De Bruyne.

The knowledge that we will not have to face the sh*tkickers cobbled together by Roberto ‘Moaner` Martinez is scant consolation for the fact that once again, for the second season in a row, a City player has suffered a significant injury as a result of a spiteful foul committed by an Everton player. Rubbing salt into this wounds were the distasteful attempts by the Everton keeper Joel Robles who, clearly attuned to his own team`s proclivity to fake injuries in seeking an advantage, tried to pull the young man to his feet whilst he was in quite obvious distress after the incident. Robles subsequent apology cuts no ice with me. Shame on you.

Given the injuries that the club has endured this season the digestive systems of City fans should by now be well used to coping with the unpalatable news that De Bruyne will be out for at least ten weeks. This young man has made a dramatic and influential return to the Premier League. Tainted by the snide accusations of Jose Mourinho he could easily have shunned a move back to a league where the pressure had been ramped up by the size of the fee City were required to stump up. A shy and humble young man he did not duck the challenge and got down to the task at hand. Boy has he shown his detractors where to shove their opinions. In a classic example of how to make people eat humble pie with his 12 goals and 9 assists in 23 appearances across all competitions in a City shirt. He will be missed and we wish him a full and speedy recovery in time for what promises to be a tight run in for the Premier League title (and who knows what else?).

Now to our next task in hand. City end a packed January schedule ahead of a busy February one with a trip to the improving Aston Villa. You really couldn`t make this stuff up. Having lost their previous six consecutive fixtures prior to the appointment of Remi Garde, Villa`s players stopped the rot with a 0-0 draw against City in his first game in charge. They then reverted to type and lost or drew the next nine fixtures??.However his message appears to be having an effect as they come into this weekend`s match undefeated in their last five matches including a couple of wins. Just our luck to stumble across them in the cup as they pick up form eh? It is true that two of those games were against League 2 giants Wycombe Wanderers so perhaps we shouldn`t get too carried away by this burst of form except to note that they have shored things up defensively. They remain firmly nailed to the trap door of the Premier League having only twice this season managed wins in the league and, despite the obvious attraction of a morale boosting cup run, maintenance of their status in the top flight would have to be their first priority if they wish to give themselves a chance of enjoying the fruits of the new tv deal for 2016/17. This is not the season to get relegated. Will this dilemma affect Garde`s choices?

Villa will be without Agbonlahor, Traore and Amavi but will likely to be fielding ex-City players in the shape of Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott with the possibility that Scott ‘I was never given a chance at City` Sinclair might make a cameo appearance. They have the talents of Gestede, Ayew and the dangerous Bacuna available. If selected, Ciaran Clark is my odds on favourite for the ‘Let`s kick the sh*t out of Sergio Aguero Award`.

Pellegrini seems to be getting scant credit for his side`s maintenance of challenges in all four competitions but this comes as little surprise given how his achievement of a league and cup double in his first season in England was largely ignored by the media. His qualities are well known and he is a fine ambassador for the club delivering exactly what the owners want – progress without any histrionics or gifts for the red tops. This Charming Man plays a straight bat with the media, rarely gets riled by their desire to wheedle out a story. His handling of the ‘was it out, surely this is the greatest travesty of justice in the history of football` questions post game on Wednesday was calm, measured and well judged. I think the measure of his success has been how quickly the matter of the ‘ball over the line` incident drifted away – his highlighting of clear and obvious officiating errors seems to have shut that debate down. This is a talent often over looked. You only have to see how Van Ghoul is managing his relations with the press to see how bad it can get if you don`t handle ‘the beast` carefully. I have a teensy, teensy bit of sympathy for the rag manager as he is a pretty straight talker??but as he is largely the master of his own fate given the dross that his team are serving up these days so that smidgen of sympathy is so small you would need an electron microscope to view it. The discomfort across town at a stadium just outside Manchester is generally very enjoyable to witness. Long may it continue.

Anyway, I digress??.Pellegrini faces selection dilemmas of his own with an away fixture at Sunderland due on Tuesday. Will he rest the in form Aguero given the challenges that lie ahead in February? Bony should be fit and so he may well get the nod perhaps alongside Iheanacho. Fernando may well get a start and I would venture Navas could well get a run out from the outset. With de Bruyne absent it is at times like this that the talents of Nasri are missed – someone to share the burden of creativity with Silva. After one of his best performances in a City shirt Sterling could well get another chance to consolidate his position – indeed in the absence of De Bruyne he may well need to step up another gear altogether and start showing just what a treat he can be. We have seen glimpses in the last two games against the sh*tkickers from Scouseland – he is at his best when taking players on rather than trying to emulate the close control of Silva. He gets tied up in knots and dispossessed too easily so his best option is a return to what he knows best – get past opponents and challenge them to keep up or commit to a tackle. In defence we will undoubtedly be blessed with the presence of Willy Caballero between the sticks but with Mangala and Kolarov fit again I suspect three out of the back four might change with either Demichelis or Otamendi will give way and Sagna slipping into the right back slot. I suspect Toure may start but was interested in his manner when substituted the other evening – he did not seem fazed by it at all. He has rarely been substituted except for injury in his City career and there was a feeling at times amongst some Blues that he had a clause in his contract which forbade it. But his equanimity at the decision last Wednesday may be an indication that he accepts that he can no longer carry the fight through every game all season and it could be a key factor in helping Pellegrini balance his side through the critical fixture list that is looming. Watch this space.

It was great to see the players at the end of the League Cup semi final win gather in a huddle after the final whistle. There has been some feelings of disquiet among City fans with the players at times failing to acknowledge travelling fans, a feeling that all might not have been well in the camp. But the team seems to have rediscovered something of it`s fighting mojo and that galvanising victory – coming from behind in the game and the tie – bodes well for the spirit in the squad.

Let`s see if they are Up For The Cup!

Come On City!!!

Written by Skoorb and initially posted in the forum – click here.

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