Preview: Fulham v Manchester City
However much he tries to play it down, there’s little doubt Mark Hughes ringed this match when the fixture lists came out. After two scoreless draws, the critics will be poised when Roberto Mancini sends out his team at Craven Cottage on Sunday. The Italian’s best answer will be a repeat of the performance at West Brom in our previous away game.
There’s a chance it could happen as well, even without Mario Balotelli, our two goal hero that day. Home sides are more likely to come out and attack than Alex McLeish’s disciplined defensive unit were last weekend. When they do, we have the players capable of exploiting the gaps.
With three consecutive clean sheets, the defence has rediscovered it’s early season form. If Joe Hart is passed fit then the back four in front of him is likely to be the same as last week, with the impressive Kolo and Kompany partnership at it’s heart.
With Dembele and Zamora missing, Fulham don’t look the most potent. Andy Johnson is still feeling his way back after injury, making Clint Dempsey appear to be the biggest danger.
For City, it’s to be hoped Carlos Tevez is fully fit and finds his touch as a result. We simply can’t afford him to be off form.
The situation with Adebayor is a bit of a mystery at present. Most news concerning the Togolese striker revolves around him being available to leave in January.
That’s as maybe, but with Balotelli suspended, we need him now to take the scoring burden off Tevez. Mind you, there would be some irony if Jo was to come on and score the winner against Mark Hughes’ side.
This week saw England fans finally catching up with City supporters in questioning Gareth Barry’s ability to keep up with the game. Fortunately Mancini may have hit upon a defensive midfield pairing of de Jong and Yaya that spares us of having Barry central to our plans.
The potential for the de Jong and Yaya pairing is huge and it’s to be hoped that Mancini persists with it. The downside last week was the lack of a physical presence closer to the front.
Tevez with Silva behind him simply isn’t going to work when the ball is in the air. If Mancini feels able to play Adebayor then the problem could be solved by playing Tevez in a deeper role.
In the wide positions, Adam Johnson and Silva would give the greatest attacking threat. However Mancini may be more inclined to stick with Milner as we’re away from home, and to give Kolarov a bit more cover.
“I feel we are close to finding our form and I believe when we play at our best and find some consistency, we’ll win five or six in a row and really challenge the teams above us.”
The pressure is back on Mancini after the failure to beat Birmingham and anything other than victory will see it intensify – regardless of Fulham’s strength at home. If Hughes’ current side show any of the defensive frailty we saw in his City team, then Mancini could mastermind a victory to consolidate our fourth place in the table.
Blue Days line up (4-2-3-1):
Boateng – K Toure – Kompany – Kolarov
de Jong – Y Toure
A Johnson – Tevez – Silva
Prediction: 3-0 to City.