Saturday, 18 May 2013

Match Preview: Manchester City vs Norwich

Can the Blues end the season on a good note?

By Aaron Leggott

At this point last year, both Manchester City and Norwich were in jubilant moods following a Premier League title for the Blues, whilst the Canaries recorded their highest top flight finish for 18 years. 

Both managers who led the two teams to success have now departed, albeit Paul Lambert a lot earlier than Roberto Mancini, who lost his job on Monday night following a breakdown between himself and the dressing room.

Aguero and Bassong clash in the reverse fixture, with City winning 4-3
Official MCFC Facebook

Perhaps both sides will be happy to see the back of this season now. City will be hoping for a fresh start under seemingly new manager Manuel Pellegrini, whilst Chris Hughton will be looking to build upon his mixed debut season at Carrow Road.

Brian Kidd is currently the man in charge at City and he will be sweating on the fitness of Sergio Aguero, who picked up a knock against Reading on Tuesday night. Both Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic are expected to return to the starting line-up following a rest on Tuesday, whilst Kolo Toure will undoubtedly miss out on a last chance to play in Sky Blue thanks to a knee injury. 

Norwich are tipped to name the same team that secured Premier League football following a comfortably victory against West Brom last weekend, but they will be coming to the Etihad Stadium with realistic targets of damage limitation. 

Below are highlights of the previous encounter between the sides which saw City win 4-3 at Carrow Road.

My thoughts

I felt that the players responded to a terrible weekend on Tuesday night in a professional manner with a 2-0 win over Reading, and you'd imagine to see some of the same tomorrow against Norwich. 

It is a shame that Mancini has been sacked and my only reasons for his departure are that firstly his man management strategies, as well as the problems with scoring goals.

The situation with Mancini and his playing staff was clear and the number of reports released in his three and a half years suggest that sometimes, his man management was the wrong way to go about things. Some will argue that they want to see that sort of passion, but you get the feeling that he overstepped the mark on a number of occasions, and has paid for it.

Nevertheless, his tenure at City has been a successful one, and I have personally enjoyed every minute of the ride and wish Roberto all the best in the future. 

We need to now move on and if it is Pellegrini that is to become our new boss then I am extremely excited this summer. At first I was sceptical over his trophy record, but his ability as a manager is there for all to see with Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga and you'd imagine he would bring in a fresh approach if he was to be appointed.

Defensively, we have been solid this season and I can see a storming performance from the players to round off the season tomorrow. Norwich have been extremely average since the New Year and have only won 2 of their last 19 games. Their main reason for the drop in form was the lack of goals flying in, and I imagine Kompany and Nastasic will be capable of providing yet another solid performance in the final game.

Recent encounters between the two sides suggest that this could be a high scoring game, so I am going for a comfortable win for City.

Prediction: City 3 - 0 Norwich

Solid: Kompany will hope to keep yet another clean sheet
Official MCFC Facebook

In the spotlight...

Ahead of the game, I spoke with Norwich City fan Levan Clarke (@speedyhamburger) who talked about his team's season, Chris Hughton and new signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel;

Well, we have finally reached the end of the season... what have you made of Norwich's campaign as a whole?

Levan: It's definitely been a struggle, but also enjoyable. Every Norwich fan had enjoyed three great years under Paul Lambert and then circumstances took cause, seeing us end up with Chris Hughton. Everyone has found it difficult to support Hughton, mostly down to the defensive way he sets up our team and many have become disgruntled with these tactics, especially as they seem the total opposite to that of Paul Lambert.

However, after a great result against West Brom which secured our safety and the signings of Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Javier Garrido to full time contracts, combined with others which are in the rumour mill - it gives us a lot of positives to look forward to for next season.

Can you see Norwich getting a positive result at the Etihad on Sunday to round off the season?

Levan: I don't believe the result is the most important aspect of the match; I will personally be more interested in the performance. I'm hoping we set up and try to play the way we did against West Brom. I'm predicting a 1-1 draw. In addition, I shall be looking forward to the new kit which we will be premiering.

What do you make of the job Chris Hughton has done as manager? Do you want him to stay?

Levan: Chris has done what the board have asked him to do and managed to stop us fulfilling the prophecy of second season syndrome. He is a bit too defensive for my liking, but I respect what he has done in securing the club's Premier League status, and next season looks more promsiing. It appears that the board are going to back Hughton 100%and let him keep hold of the purse strings.

Of course, you have signed Ricky van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon. What sort of impact will this have upon the squad?

Levan: I'm hoping Ricky is able to transfer his prolific goal-scoring record over to England and I'm hoping his goals will steer us towards many wins and hopefully keep us up for another season.

Who can you see departing the club this summer? 

Levan: There will definitely be a clear out this summer. Players such as Simeon Jackson and James Vaughan will probably be offloaded to the Championship, whilst there is also speculation over where John Ruddy and Bradley Johnson will be. Perhaps the biggest question is where Grant Holt will be. 

It's known that Holt has moved his family to Carlisle and has admitted himself that he doesn't know where he will be next season, but all signs point to a cash plus Holt deal for Celtic's Gary Hooper. 

Key man: Robert Snodgrass
Official Norwich City Facebook
What are your hopes for next season?

Levan: I'm hoping for us to aim for a top 10 finish. It's optimistic, but I believe that we have the quality and experience to finish high. I would also like to see us go on a good cup run after Wigan and Swansea have both shown that it can be done.

Who will be your key player on Sunday and why?

Levan: In my opinion our key player will be Robert Snodgrass. If we are to get a result, his service to the forwards will be important. 

Predicted Norwich line up?

Levan: Probably unchanged, however I would like to see Luciano Becchio involved...

(4-5-1) Ruddy; Martin, Bassong, Bennett, Garrido; Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Hoolahan, Pilkington; Holt.

Who will be City's key player and why?

Levan: With injury doubts for Kolo Toure and Sergio Aguero, I reckon the player to watch out for will be David Silva. Silva has the ability to change a game in an instance and if Norwich are to gain anything from this match, I believe stopping Silva from linking up with the forwards has to be the number one objective.

And finally... what's your prediction for the game?

Levan: My heart says 2-1 to Norwich, but my head is going to go for a 1-1 draw.

Thanks to Levan for taking the time out to speak to The Sky Blue View, and we wish his team good luck for next season!

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You can also follow Aaron on Twitter: @aaron_leggott

(c) The Sky Blue View 2013

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