Published on April 10th, 2014 | by Ian Cheeseman0
“Hold on to your hats, it’s crunch time” – Ian Cheeseman
It turned out to be a routine victory against Southampton, with a bit of good fortune helping along the way. Silva was clearly offside for the second goal, but what a beauty it was.
I’m starting to have a few minor concerns about Alvaro Negredo. He had two chances to score late in the game, but didn’t take either. The shoulder injury he sustained at West Ham seems to be the accepted reason for his dip in form, although I seem to remember a couple of less impressive performances before that too, like the one at Swansea on New Year’s Day.
The last thing I want to be is negative, so I hope you’ll read this as the view of someone who is desperate for the Spaniard to show the great form that he displayed earlier in the season.
My concern is that he’s too left footed and that opponents have sussed this out. I hope I’m wrong.
Once again David Silva was imperious, and I was impressed by Edin Dzeko’s work rate. I assume that this “new” Dzeko is something the manager can take credit for. There have been times when the Bosnian has looked sulky, when things haven’t gone his way, but his new “I’ll chase back and work hard” mentality will win round the doubters.
The home game against Southampton was one of the remaining games that worried me a little, and there were phases of the match where the Saints were undoubtedly on top, until those two goals just before half time killed it as a true competition.
Having watched City’s last title success unfold, I’ve learned that once you get to this stage of the season, some of the games become a formality; the ones where the opposition have nothing to fight for. We can all work out which games to come will be decisive.
I’m happy to see Crystal Palace easing away from the drop zone, as it will hopefully mean that City’s game at Selhurst Park won’t be a “win-at-all-costs” fixture; that was one I’d had concerns about too.
That takes us to Anfield. The hype ahead of this would suggest that Liverpool are like a runaway train, with Steven Gerrard the driver, as a title win for him would complete his set of medals.
The game at Liverpool seems like the crunch game. I’ve heard all the stats about City being a long way behind with a few games to go in 2012, but that type of slip up by our rivals was unusual. Liverpool only have five games to go. After the City game, the only fixture they MIGHT drop points in is the Chelsea game. I know a lot of fans will say, “I’d take a draw at Anfield right now”, well I wouldn’t. A draw would keep Liverpool’s belief alive, a City win would extinguish it. With Chelsea now focussing on the Champions League, I believe Liverpool will beat Chelsea, and win their other three games, which means if City draw there’ll be no room for a slip at Everton, Palace or anywhere else.
If City had won at Arsenal, a draw might have been enough at Anfield, but now it’s got to be a win.
It looks like Pellegrini will put Aguero back in, right from the start, but if that’s to be the case, or even if he leaves Sergio on the bench, I’d play an extra midfielder.
I believe City have that winning mentality and can come back with all three points, but this is undoubtedly the title decider for me.
I know anything can happen, whatever the outcome at Anfield, but a draw or defeat will make it less likely.
Atletico Madrid’s victory over Barcelona in the Champions League was all about wanting it more, and was not about pure ability. Bayern looked out of sorts early on in their Champions League quarter final, even though they still had enough to go through, but they could have slipped up against a better team.
Once we get to these defining games, like City’s at Anfield, it can be down to who wants it more. Liverpool are on a roll and at home. I believe this game will define Pellegrini’s first season in charge, and have a big impact on City’s activity in the summer transfer window.
I believe Kompany, Yaya Toure & Silva (and if fully fit, Aguero) will make the difference, but then if I knew the outcome already – I’d be a rich man!
I remember saying to my son Daniel before City’s game at Newcastle, two years ago, that if City won at St. James’s Park, they’d be crowned Champions. I know there were a few unexpected twists still to come after that, but ultimately, I was right. If City win at Liverpool they’ll take the title again, with or without late twists, in my humble opinion.
Hold on to your hats, this Sunday is going to be BIG!
– Ian Cheeseman