Blue Blogger: Bring on the Saints
- Fri 08 Feb 2013, 9:52AM
- Posted by @NieldyMCFC / Words by Howard Hockin
The phrase “a must-win game” is overused somewhat by football fans, but for Manchester City this weekend, its use could be justified.
Having extended their lead at the top by a further four points over the past week, Manchester United now have a nine-point cushion at the top, and there is no room for error for City with games running out.
Like last season (remember that?), City must hope as the pressure eases, the best football of the season will follow, as it did last April. The two goals scored by Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard were the first conceded by City this year, and a defence heavily criticised earlier in the season is yet again proving to be the tightest in the league.
Where City have dropped points has often come down to a lack of goals at the other end of the pitch, and it is here that City need to click into gear if they are to repeat the heroics of seasons past, starting this weekend at the St. Mary’s Stadium.
The Ivory Coast’s AFCON exit is a boost for City as the Touré brothers and Abdul Razak head back home to the gloom of a northern winter to boost a squad previously stretched by injuries, illnesses and far-flung tournaments. Roberto Mancini has hopes that the Ivory Coast players will be angry at their failure and use it to spur City on.
Inspirational captain Vincent Kompany may not quite recover in time to feature, but if he does, Mancini should have close to a full squad to choose from, with seemingly no casualties from this week’s round of international friendlies.
As for City’s opponents Southampton, the football world furrowed its collective brow when Southampton’s chairman Nicola Cortese dismissed Nigel Adkins just a few weeks ago, immediately installing the former Espanyol manager Maricio Pochettino in his place. However, whilst the dismissal of Adkins seemed harsh, the owners cited their great ambition for the decision, and Pochettino seems to have quickly imposed his mark on the squad, and the early signs are good.
It’s true that they are yet to win under him, with two points in three games, but these included tough fixtures against Everton and Manchester United. City will be challenged by a skilful side that like City’s previous opponents will press and harry at every opportunity, spearheaded by an in-form Ricky Lambert, who has weighed in with 11 goals this season. Let’s not forget City’s opening game of the season, which saw them prevail, just, in a nervy 3-2 victory over the Saints.
Nevertheless, Southampton sit only three points above the relegation zone, with just three wins from their twelve home games and like Liverpool are yet to beat a side in the top half of the table. Their need for points is vital too, so it promises to be an entertaining encounter.
For more of Howard's writing, check out his blog.