Date: 2nd March 2018 at 8:51am
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City passed another test on Thursday evening. Having despatched Arsenal 0-3 at the weekend in the League Cup final they maintained their focus to secure a similar result against the same opponents on their home turf as they took another step towards securing the Premier League title. No mean feat maintaining your standards so soon after winning a trophy. In 2016 City defeated Liverpool to lift the League Cup but were then soundly beaten at Anfield four days later.

That was then, this is now and under Guardiola there is no let up, no ‘foot off the gas’, no distraction, no relaxation. Whilst City produced some scintillating football to deliver three wonderful goals – David Silva’s second was just sublime – within the first thirty minutes, Pep saw enough sloppiness either side of halftime to ensure that his players will be spending some time reviewing those moments back at the CFA in an effort to improve. His point – play like that in the Champions League and you WILL lose.

So City returned to Manchester having restored the their 16 point lead at the top of the league. With the Stretford Galacticos not playing until Monday evening they know that the possibility exists to increase this to a morale crushing 19 points before they kick off.

To achieve this they must defeat the reigning Premier League Champions Chelsea who sit some 22 points behind City in 5th place. Any mention of the ‘worst title defence ever’? No, I didn’t think so.

Having run away with the league last season Antonio Conte has not found things quite so rosy in the Premier League garden this year. The reality of maintaining a challenge across multiple competitions has taken it toll on fitness and the demands of midweek football has eaten into training ground time what with all that pesky travelling. They remain firmly in the hunt for the Champions League spots and so will present another tough challenge for Pep Guardiola to plan for but he will know that he has the tools at his disposal to get the job done.

Last season this fixture was controversial for the scattergun officiating of Anthony ‘Altrincham’ Taylor who saw fit not to dismiss Luiz for a foul on Aguero but then subsequently sent off the Argentinian (deservedly for a poor challenge on Luiz) and then Fernandinho after Slap Happy cheat Fabregas deceived the officials when he opted to topple backwards over the pitch side hoardings after the faintest contact. City lost 1-3 and so there is a debt to be repaid.

Team news:-

City will be without the suspended Delph and almost certainly Fernandinho. Sterling remains a doubt as does Walker who left the pitch at the Emirates with a knock in the second half. Benjamin Mendy continues to tweet his way back to fitness.

Chelsea will be missing Luiz (sad, I know) and have doubts over Bakayoko and Ross ‘Wonder’ Barkley.

Predicted City XI & subs


Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Danilo

De Bruyne, Gundogan, Silva D

Silva B, Aguero, Sané

Bravo, Zinchenko, Stones, Laporte, Foden, Toure, Sterling

The officials: –

Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Simon Bennett, Stuart Burt
Fourth official: Jonathan Moss

Chelsea have enough quality to cause any team problems – Hazard is a known and constant threat, and Willian has hit a rich vein of form but the team overall has failed to keep firing on all cylinders. However, despite securing a creditable draw against Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the Champions League fixture they have lost three of their last four Premier League games including a home defeat to Bournemouth and away at Watford and last weekend at The Old Toilet. Their sole victory came against relegation certainties West Brom. Take that sequence back further and out of their fourteen fixtures since the start of 2018 they have only won four.

Pep will know how important this game is to his season and will ensure that his players are properly prepared and focused. Fernandinho remains a doubt and so I expect Gundogan to continue alongside De Bruyne and David Silva. Danilo can probably expect another run out in defence, in fact if Walker recovers from the knock he collected Thursday evening I would be unsurprised to see him name an unchanged side. He knows the value of momentum and the self-belief that is now coursing back through the veins of his players following the League Cup win and Thursday’s victory. The only caveat to that might be Vincent Kompany who would be facing his third game in seven days and so he may opt to bring back Stones or Laporte and save Vincent for the Basel home game next week. However as you can see I think he may stick with the players that have delivered (subject to KW being fit – if so Danilo moves over and Oleksandr Zincheko {aka Kevin 2} slots in at LB)

Who said Pep couldn’t succeed in English football? Who said ‘you can’t play the sort of football he delivered at Barcelona in the Premier League’?

To all the doubters and nay-sayers……..

The City Train, in danger of being derailed after the defeat at Wigan, has been firmly reseated back on the tracks and is gathering speed again. Pep Guardiola is delivering a lesson to those who questioned his abilities and boy is it fun to watch.

Come on City!!!

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