Manchester City 1-0 Stoke City – “Dun dun dun, another one parked the bus!”
It was another case of breaking down the walls for the Blues this weekend, after yet another team parked the bus at the Etihad stadium – but to no avail!
The game on Saturday felt like a repeat of the Crystal Palace game back in December, where it was a game between two teams, with two completely different mentalities. To be fair to Stoke, they had a couple of decent chances in the first half through Charlie Adam, just like Crystal Palace did when Joel Ward forced Joe Hart to make a couple of decent saves, but overall it was clear that they were here to take the point.
Knowing that they were going to do this, I personally would have played either Stevan Jovetic or Jesus Navas from the start over one of the two strikers, as Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo are two very similar players, and can be too predictable at times, so the added ‘spark’ of Navas or Jovetic might have changed the game in City’s favour.
It was good to see the creative talent of Samir Nasri and David Silva reunited, as they were both on the same wavelength, which allowed them to wreak the usual havoc on the opposition with their mesmeric ball control and intricate passing, all throughout the match.
After a first half with very few chances, the introduction of Javi Garcia after the break proved to be a game-changing substitution, as he allowed Yaya Toure to get into those dangerous attacking positions for the remainder of the match – which ultimately lead to the winning goal.
As much as I like Fernandinho, his playing style is very similar to Yaya Toure’s, despite the difference in height, as they both prefer to attack, rather than defend. This means that when they are both playing together, one of them has to drop back into a position which they aren’t as comfortable or effective in, and so when Javi Garcia plays alongside one of the two, he fills in that defensive ‘gap’ (which HE prefers to play in) and allows them to press forward.
Edin Dzeko’s unfortunate miskick in front of goal pretty much sums up City’s goal drought in recent games, as they haven’t been able to convert their chances, and luck hasn’t really been on their side. But with the imminent return of Sergio Aguero, and the prospect of a Cup Final win, I’m sure they’ll soon kick back into goalscoring gear.
The question which will be on the tip of everyone’s tongue is “what team will Manuel Pellegrini pick on Sunday?”, a tough question, especially with Sergio Aguero set to make his return, but my team would be very similar to what was picked on Saturday, but with Aguero in place of one of the two strikers, in the centre-forward role.
I’m sure that Manuel Pellegrini will be preparing the team to deal with the same, or similar, tactics to what Stoke used a couple of days ago, when they face Sunderland in the Capital One Cup Final this weekend at Wembley. It is likely to be another close tie between two teams, with two completely different tactics, where anything could happen – as we found out last year when Wigan beat the Blues 1-0 in the FA Cup final.
And I bet that all who are going this weekend will have those usual ‘cup final butterflies’ in the build up to the game all this week (like I have!), as there is nothing quite like watching your team play in a major Cup Final, at the grandest stage of them all!
– Daniel Cheeseman