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Manchester City v West Ham United

Filed: Tuesday, 7th January 2014
By: Preview Percy

In advance of a tough trip to the Etihad, where better to get an advance look at the opposition than from Preview Percy? Actually we can think of dozens of places, although, none of them mention the sonic qualities of quacking ducks...

Another day another Cup. M1/M6 (Toll)/some other roads will get you to the Etihad (nee City Of Manchester Stadium) for a 7.45pm kick-off in the first leg of the League Cup Semi Final. This being the first leg it'll simply be a matter of 90 minutes this time around, extra time, away goals (hmmm)and penalties being available in the second leg if required.

This being the League Cup I'll eschew the usual run through their home league form, an exercise that would probably just increase the wave of depression here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home for the Bewildered. It's not like Matron needs much of an excuse to up the dosage of the knockout “vitamins” she makes us take during the rowdier evenings in these parts. Well those whist drives can get a bit raucous.

Their League Cup journey commenced with a second round bye, a consequence of their involvement on the European front. They got rid of Wigan 5-0 at home in the third round, beat Newcastle 2-0 on their own patch before qualifying for this round with a 3-1 win at whatever Leicester call their ground at the moment.

They've been switching 'keepers about a bit of late. Joe Hart started out as the no.1 choice custodian. He hit one of those rough patches to which 'keepers can occasionally be prone from time to time. Manager Pellegrini gave Hart a bit of a breather, selecting him for cup games whilst Costel Pantilimon donned the oven-mitts in the League. They've swapped back of late so that, in this weekend's FA Cup Trip to Blackburn it was the Romanian who kept goal, making a bit of a mess of a shot for the Blackburn equaliser. Either could start.

The goalkeeping conundrum highlights the the problem with trying to do a preview for teams like Man City. Such is the depth of their financial resources there are options for them all over the pitch. If the Blackburn match saw them rotate the squad a bit, we're likely to see what their local paper refers to the “big guns” returning. These won't include Jesus Navas whose “minor knee problem” won't be risked. Similarly Sergio Aguero and Steven Jovetic will be absent from the striking positions.

This means that they might have to rely on £20m forward Negrado. Your heart bleeds for them doesn't it? Negrado may have been the subject of a bizarre substitution cock-up in the Blackburn match. Reporters seemed to suggest that Pellegrini was looking to replace Dzeko in the second half. It would have made sense – Dzeko wasn't having the best of games apparently. However, instead of Dzeko's no.10 appearing on the little electric number thing it was goalscorer Negredo's no.9 that lit up in red. Certainly Negredo seemed less than whelmed by his having to come ashore.

If true it's not Pellegrini's first techy error of the season. In the so-called Champions League he brought on midfielder Jack Rodwell in an attempt to shore things up at 3-2, apparently oblivious to the fact that another goal would have seen them top the group. Going back even further, of course, who can forge the footage of Niall Quinn doing his nut while players took the ball into the corner in the belief that a draw would keep them up when in fact a win against Liverpool was required that day.

A look at the proposed squad for this one is a bit scary really: Hart, Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Demichelis, Nastasic, Kolarov, Clichy, Milner, Nasri, Silva, Toure, Fernandinho, Dzeko, Negredo, Guidetti, Lopes, Garcia. Not too many weaknesses there to look forward to, So I'll stop looking.

I almost hesitate to start writing about us. One can only assume that had the manager had the option of withdrawing from the competition without incurring a hefty fine he'd have done so. It's all very well sending in the kids, but the underlying intention couldn't have been more obvious had he sent them on with written instruction for someone to score an own goal if it were looking like a replay. There was – an admittedly brief- spell in the second period when we started to push forward with intent and at 1-0 down we were still in it. So things were changed. Experience in the form of Downing was removed and replaced with more youth just in case we did something silly like scoring.

Now I appreciate that we have an injury list the length of the Thames. I also appreciate that there are three games this week. I also note that the freeing up of a few Saturdays between now and April will no doubt be welcomed – especially with regards to the injury position. However there must have been a combination whereby a more balanced blend of old lags and kids could have been split over this game and Sundays whilst ensuring that the strongest XI is available for the trip abroad at the weekend.

We will of course have one new face in the squad. Roger Johnson was on target for the Birmingham side that got away with murder thanks to Howard “I Did A World Cup Final You Know” Webb at the same stage of this competition a few years ago. Johnson made a bit of a blunder in signing for Wolves after leaving Birmingham. Gravity on earth is said to be something like 32ft per second per second. Whoever came up with that calculation clearly never saw Wolves' descent through the leagues. The 30 year-old has been on loan at Sheffield Wednesday for the past few months as Wolves have been trying to keep their wage bill down – as a veteran of their last Premier League season one would imagine that he'd be on a higher than average salary for the third tier. He's signed on loan to the end of the season and the deal is rumoured to be based on how much he plays. I mean him no disrespect when I say that I hope that won't be much.

There is talk that Mark Noble may have recovered from his calf problem in time for this one. However, given that the manager has made it clear that he is prioritising games at the moment, I'd expect that Noble will sit this one out if there's the slightest doubt as to his fitness.

The (hopefully soon to be ex) skipper will still be suspended. I may have missed it in amongst all the open letters, emails and restraining orders that I receive from the club here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered, but I'm pretty sure that the chap owes us some sort of apology for his behaviour at Fulham. Nothing too spectacular – a full page advert in the national press should do the trick. Perhaps a charitable donation to, oh I don't know, maybe a Rest Home For The Bewildered for example, might restore our faith in him, not to mention clearing Matron's slate at the Swan & Superinjunction which rumour has it, is now approaching the size of a small nation's defence budget.

I've been putting this bit off for too long but can do so no longer. It's prediction time. Ok we'll be putting out a (slighty) stronger XI than we did on Sunday and Blackburn showed that this lot aren't infallible. However, so much has been going wrong for us of late I'll just be happy if we cam get through the game without anyone else getting injured before Cardiff at the weekend. They score goals for fun up there – ok sticking 6 past Spurs is not much to boast about (imagine what we could do to them with a full squad) but Arsenal are a tougher proposition.

I'm going to go optimistic however and place the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered Emergency Sandbag Fund (£2.50) on a 3-0 home win, as long as we can be bothered to turn up.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Etihad – Lost 2-1 Howard Webb unilaterally rewrote the law on handball in denying us one of the most blatant penalties you'll ever see. Carroll netted a late consolation with a bit of an assist from Joe Hart.

Referee: Jon Moss Pretty disgraceful show from the refereeing authorities in awarding a match of this importance to an official whose decisions have been directly responsible for costing us six points this season. Unable to tell the difference between a dive and an artichoke, over the last few seasons he's awarded twice the number of spot kicks that the average select group moron awards and, on a conservative estimate,, his errors have materially altered the results of a good half dozen matches this season. It's not looking good is it....

Danger Man: Hart, Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Demichelis, Nastasic, Kolarov, Clichy, Milner, Nasri, Silva, Toure, Fernandinho, Dzeko, Negredo, Guidetti, Lopes, Garcia. Pick one of those.

Daft fact of the week: You know that old “fact” that a duck's quack doesn't echo? Complete rot. How do we know this? Because research chappies at Manchester's University of Salford (formerly Coronation Street Public baths) went and spent good money in researching the matter. Nice to see that the spirit of scientific research is still alive in the city where Rutherford worked on the structure of the atom.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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