Date: 28th February 2016 at 9:05am
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Once the euphoria of last Wednesday’s result against Dynamo Kiev has drained away it is time for City to focus on their next mission – securing silverware in the form of the League Cup. To do so they must of course overcome the only team in the league with any history and with a broadcast media infested with ex-Liverpool players. I fully expect the onslaught to start soon from the likes of Messrs Lawrenson and Carragher et al as they crawl out from under the rocks they inhabit, throw aside any semblance of balance and journalistic integrity and press the car for Liverpool to win the cup by just turning up.

City need to make sure that doesn’t happen – they need to re-focus very quickly indeed, recover rapidly from their exertions and travel fatigue and step up once again (TM Vincent Kompany).

After an exhilarating and media defying performance in the freezing conditions at the edge of the Black Sea Manuel Pellegrini can rightly feel a sense of vindication. Having been roundly condemned for his team selection against Chelsea and constant accusations of ‘disrespecting’ the FA Cup he set out his stall in Europe`s top competition and his players duly delivered on a thrilling night. The chagrin was almost too much to bear for the bitters in the BT Sports studio as ex-rag Ferdinand, ex-dipper McManaman & cross-over ex-dipper/rag Tiny Tim Owen as they faced the fact that City emerged as the first Premier League club to have won the first leg of a knock out round in the Champions League for four years. Last Sunday`s conductor of the BBC’s ‘City have disrespected the BBC FA Cup’ orchestra, Gary Crisp Man Lineker made a vague attempt to keep things balanced but failed miserably as he duly fed the detractors their line and off we went again with another round of ‘City should have sacrificed the chance of progressing in the Champion’s League and, by the way, jeopardising the Premier League’s 4th slot in the competition, by playing their best team against Chelsea’

But enough of that old nutshell. After their performance in setting top the limited Shearer and the disappointing Le Saux (the first one to mention the ‘respect’ word – 9 minutes into the broadcast) to deliver the Corporation’s judgement on Pellegrini spooling their televised fixture I have little or no time for the BBC any more. Shame on them – they should be the broadcaster of balance and impartiality but they showed precious little last weekend. This weekend we will face a coterie of ex-dippers as Sky are the broadcaster of the final. I am sure he will be fair and balanced.

Sunday brings Manuel Pellegrini’s second opportunity to bring home the League Cup. Having secured the trophy in his first season as the City manager it would be fitting for him to return the three handled cup to the trophy cabinet again before he departs the club. To this end we come to the elephant in the City Dressing Room will he stick with his policy of playing his second pick keeper in the cup competitions or will he pick the better keeper? You could extend this thought to whether he will opt to return Martin Demichelis to the back line or indeed whether he could elect to change the entire back four now that he has, for almost the first time this season, two fully fit senior players in each defensive position.

Sorry. I was so shocked by that last sentence I must have blacked out with shock. A dizzying array of choice which has made my head spin.

The head says that Pellegrini has a duty to the club, the 30,000 City fans who are making the expensive trip to support their beloved team, and perhaps a duty to his legacy as a City manager to play his best team on Sunday. This would mean of course selecting Hart instead of the shaky Caballero. If you were making this on form alone the choice would be simple – contrast Hart`s critical save on Wednesday to preserve City’s slender lead with Caballero’s rickety efforts against Chelsea last weekend. There would be no contest and I think whilst many City fans admire his loyalty and being a genuine all round nice bloke, they would probably prefer him to be hard headed over his choice of keeper this weekend.

#notimeforsentiment – I think would be the general feeling but I strongly suspect that he will stick to his policy of playing his second choice keeper in all cup competitions. If he is being protected by the much more stable central defensive partnership of Kompany & Otamendi and on the flanks by Sagna and Clichy I might – just might – feel a bit more at ease but I would not at all be surprised if he doesn’t opt to return Demichelis to the line. Martin has had some fine performances in a City shirt but not so many this season when, shorn of a regular central defensive partner, he has looked exposed. Oh the agony of choice.

We shall all await the appearance of the team sheet at 3.30pm this Sunday & probably watch through our fingers.

Team news:

Liverpool could be without Lallana, Skrtel and Allen with Lovren possibly returning.

City will be without Nasri, Navas, De Bruyne & Deplh with Bony possibly being available (but his return does keep shifting week on week so best not put any money on it).

Despite both teams having successful weeks in their respective European competitions neither comes into this final in sparkling form. City’s much needed win came against the backdrop of three consecutive defeats and prior to thumping the almost certainly doomed Aston Villa 0-6 Liverpool had lost two and drawn their preceding league fixtures.

City fans remain scarred by the defeat in November at the Etihad when the scousers raised their football to heights they have struggled to regain since. Pellegrini will do well to have studied the video of that game and develop a plan to counter the speed with which the Liverpool players by-passed his team. Wednesday could well provide the template – fast, high pressing with everyone – everyone – being on message.

The deployment of Fernandinho on the right side of midfield last Wednesday was something of a masterstroke if not a revelation – we all know about his tenacity and work rate. It released Silva from those onerous defensive duties which he fulfils only fitfully, protected the full back and enabled Fernandinho to operate almost as a ‘stealth’ weapon – bursting forward and pressuring players very effectively, taking some of that weight of Kun’s shoulders. It allowed Silva to operate with the freedom he enjoys and can exploit. It probably resulted in his arrival in the box to get on the end of Sterling’s cross in midweek.

Talking of Sterling…could there be a better time for him to shine in a sky blue shirt? Against the side that he departed to further his own personal and professional ambitions and in the face of those fans whose hypocrisy (‘any player joining our club is lauded, anyone leaving is a turncoat’) will no doubt be vented to the full at Wembley stadium. I hope he steps up again as his captain demanded on Wednesday and delivers a scintillating performance to shut up the critics. Wouldn’t it be nice if he scored the winning goal?

It’s time to bring it home boys.

Are you Up For the Cup?

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