I have a feeling City will bounce back... 3-0 to the Blues
By Andy Leggott
With the press now having declared the title race over City entertain the side whose Boxing day, rear-guard performance prompted a run of mystifying away form from which City are yet to recover. In scenes now ever familiar to travelling blues, the Baggies celebrated their 0-0 draw with all the gusto of a World Cup winning side. Indeed such was the magnitude of the achievement that serious thought was given to ending the Premier League season there and then!
Oh how we wish that had been the case! The Baggies remain one of only two sides yet to be beaten by the blues this season. Indeed it was back on that cold December afternoon that West Brom discovered the formula for stopping City on their travels. Two flat banks of five, a keeper tucked in behind and a clear ‘though shall not pass’ edict running throughout the side. For those still clamouring for Arry’ to be England boss take note; it was Roy Hodgson that discovered the key to stopping City scoring at will.
But that was there and this is fortress Etihad. 15 wins and a 3-3 draw, albeit a lucky draw last time out, suggest that the stifling plan doesn’t really work on City territory. That said I still expect the Baggies to employ similar tactics and hope to catch City feeling sorry for themselves after the tame defeat, and probable submission in the title race, at Arsenal on Sunday.
City will be without Mario Balotelli, which is probably a blessing, and are also unlikely to risk aggravating Yaya Toure’s or David Silva’s injuries whilst the thinnest of title hopes remain. Edin Dzeko is likely to start up front and can hopefully take the opportunity that Balotelli’s three game ban now presents him. I wouldn’t start with Carlos Tevez as I don’t really think he has offered anything other than one telling pass in his first game back. Indeed much of the recent malaise has only surfaced since the Argentine returned to the club. Although we’ll never be privy to the details of his return you have to ask whether it has created disharmony in a squad that had got along fine without him.
For the visitors any threat usually manifests itself through the outstanding Peter Odemwingie. Odemwingie has ten goals so far this season and always has the ability to be able to create something out of nothing.
Despite the Baggies holding City to a draw in December the blues remain a different prospect on home turf. I fully expect City to bounce back from Sunday’s defeat with a comfortable victory that will leave Sunderland as the only PL team the blues failed to beat in 2011/12. After that it’s all eyes towards the result at the DW stadium and hope eternal that Wigan achieve a first ever PL point against the leaders.
Samir Nasri vs Chris Brunt
|Nasri photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe Brunt photo: Chris Brunskill/Getty Images Europe|
It is fair to say that both sides enter this fixture on the back of some poor form, with City without a win for the first time under Roberto Mancini, whilst West Brom won their first game in five on Saturday with a 3-0 annihilation of Blackburn Rovers at the Hawthorns.
If West Brom are to get anything out of this fixture then they will have to pin a lot of their hopes upon captain Chris Brunt, who has been ever present in the Baggies side this season. Although he doesn't really contribute as much going forward, scoring only one goal this season, it is his incisive passing which makes him such a threat to the Premier League.
For City, you have to look at Samir Nasri currently in terms of creativity. With David Silva extremely out of form, Nasri has stepped up to the plate and looked to establish himself as a City player recently, in particular his man of the match performance against Chelsea, which was a big factor in him being awarded Player of the Month for March.
I think this game will be won in the midfield, and it all depends on how these two perform.
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(c) The Sky Blue View 2012
(c) The Sky Blue View 2012