Although many will see the slender one goal lead we are taking to Romania as coming up short I think, if you look hard enough, there were plenty of positives to come out of Thursday night’s win over Unirea Urziceni.
Predictably most of the talk was about us having no cutting edge and struggling to break down the Romanians defence. There was also plenty of mention of us having a reality check about the Europa League. This of course presupposes that we thought all we had to do was to turn up to the games on time to secure the trophy, clearly a ridiculous notion.
As for the match well the Romanians were open and honest about how they wanted to play it. It was a far cry from the thumping they gave Rangers up at Ibrox in the Champions League however that was under a different manager. We are no the only club who have come up against these type of tactics before and I guess it is a tribute to our persistence that we finally managed to get win we deserved. It would have been easy to let frustration get the better of us but we held our nerve and eventually got the result.
The other positive was the goal which saw Ryan Babel, Daniel Pacheco ad David Ngog combining. Clearly it is only one move but it was encouraging to see youth, Pacheco and Ngog, given its chance and Babel finally playing a positive part. However, will Rafa be tempted to use all three players on a more regular basis in the future?
And so to today’s game which will inevitably be seen by Sky as “need to win”, “must win” a six pointer for the forth place spot. Oh sorry they’ve gone for Wigan v Spurs instead so presumably it isn’t that urgent after all? This sort of talk is of course nonsense there is still a long way to go however, a win today would, from a physiological point of view at least, be most welcome.
A few weeks ago one would have been filled with more tension and anticipation about this game however, since then Manchester City have shown enough inconsistency, draws with Stoke and a defeat to Hull, to suggest that they can still be overhauled even if we lose. However, clearly we can’t rely on the fluctuating form of others we also need to raise our game. Although we are on a good run our play can still improve and we will probably need to do that today? Up front in particular we seem to rather one dimensional however, in the last two games when Rafa has introduced width, Babel on both occasions, and dropped Gerrard back we have had more about us. Defensively we have remained solid, just one goal conceded in nine hours, which is timely as City have many options in attack, Tevez appears to finally hit form but it appears Craig Bellamy has done his usual trick of petulantly shooting himself in the foot, the only surprise is that it took him so long!
Prediction? Even though we are the away side I think we can feel confident. There is bound to be tension on both sides City because they will expected to kick on and strengthen their grip of fourth and us because we need to stay in touch. It sounds a cliché but the first goal could be vital and I take us to prevail by 2-0.
By the way this blog now has a full index of match reports since it started in October 2006 so for reports of previous games, against Manchester City since this date click here.
Enjoy the game.