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Published on February 16th, 2014 | by Ian Cheeseman

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Pellegrini gives Mourinho a tactical master class!

Twelve days earlier, Chelsea deservedly beat the Blues at the Etihad and the consensus by the “experts” was that Jose Mourinho had out thought Manuel Pellegrini, ignoring the obvious detail that City were without at least a couple of key players, who would have made a huge difference to the outcome of the fixture. Having said that, I think Pellegrini changed things tactically for the rematch too.

By playing the emerging talent of Jovetic, who is a link player rather than an out-and-out striker, there was an extra body in midfield. Javi Garcia, who I felt had the best game of his City career (so far) allowed Toure more freedom and less defensive responsibility.

Another change, perhaps more subtly, was that the two fullbacks were more restrained. Pablo Zabaleta still roamed forward, of course he did, but he picked his moments more carefully, and Gael Clichy is naturally more cautious in his raids forward. All those factors, Garcia, Jovetic, and the way the fullbacks played meant that Pellegrini had learnt from that first encounter and given Mourinho a tactical master class!

I’m not a big fan of the Chelsea boss, never have been. His approach to football seems to be based on destruction first and entertainment second. I can’t really comment on his time at Porto, but at his other clubs he’s built pragmatic teams that are designed to counter attack, but first and foremost to stop the opposition.

Manuel Pellegrini’s philosophy is absolutely the opposite.

I’ve heard him say, on several occasions this season, that he won’t change the team’s approach, and I applaud that. After the defeat by Chelsea, I suggested that he should stick to his principals, but be prepared to tweak it, now and again. That’s what he seemed to do in the FACup rematch. My man-of-the-match was therefore, the City boss.

Mourinho’s “mind games” which have become more and more unacceptable in recent days, especially those aimed at Arsene Wenger, all added to my  joy of seeing his team out thought and outplayed at the Etihad Stadium.

There was another difference too, in the two City v Chelsea games, Joleon Lescott played in the 2-0 win, a reunion of City’s best central defensive pair, in my opinion.

Martin Demichelis didn’t play in this game, and my bet is that he was being rested, to keep him fresh for the Barcelona game. Would he be in your back four against Barca? I asked the City boss, after the win, if Lescott had done enough to push for a place against the Catalans, and he gave a vague answer that revealed nothing. I don’t blame him for that, but I suspect Lescott won’t be involved in the Champions League game. I’d have Kompany and Lescott together against Barca, but then again I’m just a humble fan/commentator, Pellegrini is the manager, and a very good one.

For the record, I also asked him if Aguero and Fernandinho were definitely ruled out of the “fixture of the season” so far. “I’ve not been thinking of that fixture yet, we’ll assess things in the morning”, was another suitably vague answer that might suggest one or both might have an outside chance, maybe to be on the bench?

Tuesday’s game against Barcelona promises to be a cracker, and BBC Radio Manchester will be going big on the game.

From 3pm on match day, Phil Trow will host his afternoon show from the “Radio Car” in City Square, and then I take over from 6pm with Blue Tuesday, also from City Square. If you’re there early enough, please come and say hello and tell us what you’re expecting from the game.

Naturally I’ll be running from inside the ground at 7pm for continued build-up and full-match commentary, followed by the post match phone-in with Shaun Goater.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really looking forward to this one, and if you’re buying a match day programme on Tuesday, look out for my “column” within!

– Ian Cheeseman

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