After Tottenham’s memorable victory over Arsenal last night at White Hart Line, the pressure is back on City after the ‘Arry’s men moved to within one point of the Blues. City play United on Saturday in probably the most important derby for about 20 years. Spurs also have a very tough fixture at the weekend; with a game against Chelsea, again at White Hart Lane. But a win for City against The Rags would be absolutely huge in terms of team confidence, a points advantage and bragging rights for the City faithful. But a loss for Mancini’s men and a win for Spurs against Chelsea would see the latter leap-frog City into the coveted 4th spot.
Today, Roberto Mancini revealed that he could have up-to four players back for the crucial Derby match at the weekend:
‘We will have Pablo Zabaleta available again following his two-match ban and possibly Stephen Ireland, Patrick Vieira and Wayne Bridge, too which is very good news for us,’ he revealed. ‘I am very pleased they are back in training and we will see how things go this week, but we won`t be naming our team until Saturday morning, of course.’
‘The team has been playing very well, but as I`ve said before, we can get better and we know that we have to be at our best to beat Manchester United and again in our remaining games after that.’
Obviously, this is good news but realistically, I can only see one of these players mentioned starting the Derby. Nedum Onouha has really impressed at right-back after the suspension of Pablo Zabaleta and the injury of Micah Richards. This means that it is pretty likely that he’ll be starting come Saturday. As for Ireland and Vieira, they will also struggle to come straight back into the team after the recent form of Gareth Barry. Barry’s been brilliant in recent weeks; picking passes and making late darts into the box, almost Ireland-esque. de Jong’s almost guaranteed to start after purposely being rested for these matches and the fact that he’s a ‘big game player’ anyway.
However, Wayne Bridge is expected to return to the starting line-up after another spell on the sidelines. Bridge was in very good form before developing a hernia, in recent weeks the left-back spot has been occupied by Javier Garrido who has done a good job in the absence of the England International. If Bridge is fully fit, then I expect he’ll start the match because he’s easily our best left-back as he helps support Bellamy when attacking and is fairly solid defensively.
I’ve also heard news that Adam Johnson is ill, throwing the chances of playing in his first Manchester Derby into doubt. But I’ve heard it’s just a stomach bug so fingers crossed, he’ll be fit and firing come Saturday to run rings around Patrice Evra.
With all this in mind, I expect Mancini to opt for this line-up:
4) Onouha – 28) Toure (c) – 33) Kompany – 3) Bridge
11) A Johnson – 34) de Jong – 18) Barry -39) Bellamy
32) Tevez – 25) Adebayor
What team do you think Bobby will opt for?