Johnny On The Spot – April Preview
#MINDTHEGAP. An April bursting with the potential of tantalising riches is upon us…
Liverpool, Anfield, Wednesday 4th April 19h45 GMT+1, CL Quarter Final 1st Leg 2017-18 Match Number 49
Liverpool. Anfield. Fortress of The Entitled. This correspondent wasn’t the only Blue to let out an audible groan when UEFA’s hot ballers went to work in Nyon yet again last month, this time in an attempt to thwart the chance of the accursed Premier League bagging two Champions League Semi-Final slots when there are Spanish giants to protect. Why the derision? Nothing at all to suggest that Liverpool 2018 are a side that Manchester City cannot dispatch, merely the expression of fatigue at the imminent tsunami of media bias towards genial Jurgen Klopp’s swashbuckling team that was about to engulf us. The hacks and learned pundits have not disappointed. Admittedly the horrible Murdoch media empire are still compelled to deliver arslikhan in the scousers direction following The Sun’s disgusting coverage of the Hillsborough disaster but they have provided absolutely no balance whatsoever. The BBC, TalkSport and other outlets have been reduced to Liverpool fanzines. The Mo Salah for Player of The Year campaign has been excruciating. Even the Stretfords have struggled for airtime! Bizarrely, as we have often seen this season, City’s brilliance has continued to pass under the radar. Were any rag striker to have plundered Leroy Sané’s fizzing strike at Everton last weekend, we’d never have heard the last of it….I have digressed. Liverpool and their publicised foaming coach greeting orchestrators go into this clash of the titans going pretty good in early Spring save for a pathetic showing at the swamp. We will not see a similar no show on Wednesday night. Much will depend in this game upon on how each defence copes with the excellence of the attacks they will face. Looking at the two back lines post Klopp-Pep pressers I am inclined to suggest that Liverpool’s rearguard will be the weaker. That’s providing City hit the target. Chances are likely to be plentiful at both ends of the park. There is a strong element of too closed to call about the game, but City are the side who look to be in the greater hurry during what could be a historic week. The droaning on about “istry” reached fever pitch this week. I think this Manchester City team are going to continue to make it rather than relentlessly hark back to it. Added spice comes in the form of German card flourisher Felix Brych who oversaw City’s thrashing of Napoli in Italy and Liverpool’s implosion at Sevilla.
Liverpool 1 City 3
Stretford Galacticos, Etihad Stadium, Saturday 7th April 17h30 GMT+1, PL 2017-18 Match Number 50
And talking of history. Moaning Maureen and Manchester United are about to enter the city walls for the first time in almost a year. Here’s a piece of history that their Home Counties power base prefer to overlook when striving to mentally cope with City’s continuing resurgence. Across 7.5 years the rags have won only 4 of 15 Premier League Manchester derbies whilst losing in 8. It is a wretched record during which to date 4 swamp managers and A380 loads of “catch up cash” have struggled to repel the emergence of a sky blue juggernaut. Sure, the arrogance and contempt for all things City persist but it as the Blues stock has continued to rise, Man Utd have continued to fall, despite scores of favourable cup draws that led to cup victories over the likes of Curzon Ajax last season. The stakes are high for this contest and the intent is clearly loaded in City’s favour. If the rags win or draw, then all they do is postpone the confirmation of City’s 3rd Premier League title in 7 years, a period during which they have won the coveted trophy only once. If City prevail, then the Men In Black and Cockney Reds in attendance will realise their worst nightmare, being witness to The Blues crowning as champions right under their very noses. It will be bad enough facing a City side coming into the game in an unprecedented top flight ascendancy. Understandably we can smell the fear from the 700 million ™ that might yet engulf their players on Saturday. Flat track bully Romelu Birtles’s slaying of hapless West Brom the following weekend could be a miserable occasion. Furthermore, Martin “97th minute” Atkinson, the most accomplished of England’s dreadful referees will be at the controls. Shorn of a Taggart stranglehold, he owes us a couple of derby favours. Prayers will be offered up that Liverpool do them a favour this week in order that Maureen’s men will not feel the full force of City’s intent ahead of another European humdinger next Tuesday. I am not buying into Pep’s current downplaying of this derby. We want this. Badly.
City 3 Man Utd 0
Liverpool, Etihad Stadium, Tuesday 10th April, 19h45 GMT+1, CL Quarter Final 2nd Leg 2017-18 Match Number 51
Take Two. City could be taking the field for this game in an atmosphere of sheer euphoria, regardless of the result in the 1st leg. The derby sandwich filler, if it goes as well as the stunning dismissal of Everton could yet be the springboard that sends The Blues into a second ever Champions League semi-final. The Street of Shame’s football scribes are choosing to ignore it, but playing at home in the second half of any knockout cup clash is a gigantic advantage and I fully expect City to take full advantage.
City 3 Liverpool 1
Tottenham Hotspur, Wembley Stadium, Saturday 14th April 19h45 GMT+1, PL 2017-18 Match Number 52
This could be interesting. Spurs, in a rich vein of form are a fine side, especially when Harry Kane is fit and on song. Providing they negotiate Stoke’s assassins next weekend they are sure to provide stiff opposition to City at a venue The Blues have frequented regularly since His Highness Sheikh Mansour came to town with plenty of success. I repeat Spurs a fine side, but their tackling and play acting when thumped in Manchester before Christmas was an absolute disgrace. Mauricio Pocchettino’s squad should not need to reduce itself to that level. For this fixture much will depend upon how City have faired in Europe and against the Stretford Galacticos. I foresee an away win with City in the mood to go for records or looking to secure the title.
Spurs 0 City 2
Swansea City, Etihad Stadium, Sunday 22nd April 16h30 GMT+1, PL 2017-18 Match Number 53
The Duncan Castles of this world would have us believe that the Swansea mercilessly crushed 2-0 at the swamp over Easter have become much harder to beat under Carlos Carvalhal and were on something of a roll. But they weren’t really, beating a crestfallen Arsenal and West Ham at their lowest respective ebbs amongst a smattering of improved results. The Swans could do themselves a big favour before taking on City by beating the all but relegated West Brom in the Midlands. I think they’ll need those points because no way are they going to win in Manchester unless City have taken their foot off the gas.
City 4 Swansea 0
West Ham United, London Stadium, Sunday 29th April 14h15 GMT+1, PL 2017-18 Match Number 54 – Fixture potentially subject to change due Champions League situation.
Whither the West Ham of long ago. The cap doffing respect between City and West Ham continues to this day and has remained in place since the Hammers took to the legendary Upton Park turf to applaud our fans as we were relegated again back in the eighties. The Irons had some great players back then. Fast forward to 2018 and the club is unrecognisable. Housed in a horribly underprepared for football stadium, led by horrible owners, it’s a nightmare for some of the most passionate fans you can meet in English football. They deserve far better. They might yet still need points to secure Premier League survival by the time City’s train gets into Euston and could be welcoming a travelling club in party mood. But hand on heart, even a third gear City should still have too much for a side coached by our one time nemesis turned dinosaur, The Moyesiah.