So, here we are, ready for the first big test of City’s season. It had looked like the derby had been that first real test, but in retrospect United were poor and so far have not been the force they had been for so long under Fergie.
It’s starting to feel like Arsenal and Chelsea are the genuine title rivals of City this season, though experience suggests that could change, but for now that’s what it feels like. If I’m right, then Chelsea away is a huge game, not because it’s a six pointer, because there are only three points at stake, but it will be a pointer towards Pellegrini’s tactical acumen and will give us a good idea of his first choice eleven, albeit that he hasn’t rotated as much as Mancini did and Vincent Kompany will be missing.
I’m very optimistic that City can win this game, and a victory at Stamford Bridge will be a strong message to their rivals and the critics alike. I believe City need to be prepared to use width to beat Chelsea who have always played narrow, but having said that I believe this game is one where James Milner can play a significant role. The team would benefit, in this tough away game, from his work rate and he should be fresh and raring to go, have not been involved in Moscow.
Central defence is the only real concern, for me, that’s an area Chelsea will be strong in, with set pieces one of their strong points when John Terry is playing. Will Javi Garcia start, should he start?
He was blamed for the goal conceded in Moscow, but I believe he has improved since his poor performance in Cardiff. Having said that, I’d select Micah Richards alongside Matja Nastasic with Zabaleta at right back.
Then comes another selection question. Kolarov or Clichy? Last season I’d have gone for Clichy every time but Kolarov has grown more confident and stronger, and he adds an extra dimension going forward. Maybe I’d go for Kolarov for this one, simply because of Chelsea’s lack of wide threat, particularly down their right, but it’s a tough call, that’s why Pellegrini is the manager and not me!
The rest of the team seems straight forward with Fernandinho, Yaya, Silva, Milner, Aguero and Negredo completing the lineup – had their ever been any real doubt that Joe Hart was the man btw?
This game won’t decide anything, but in believe a win would represent a huge step forward, a defeat would be a setback and a draw would simply mean stalemate, but wouldn’t be the end of the world.
My journey south starts at 7:30am, which happily will be 8:30 because of the autumn clock change. As always you can listen to my commentary on BBC Radio Manchester (95.1FM) within Greater Manchester or on mcfc.co.uk all around the world, as usual for away games, Fred Eyre will be sat alongside me, willing the Blues to that vital victory, and you can offer your post match opinions on the phone in with Fred, 0161-228-2255.
– Ian Cheeseman