Monday, March 3, 2014

Man City Report - One Down, Three to Go

Going into the 2013-14 season Manchester City previously won 15 major trophies: three English First Division/Premier League titles (1936-37, 1967-68, & 2011-12), five FA Cups (1904, 1934, 1956, 1969, & 2011), two League Cups (1970 & 1976), four FA Community Shields (1937, 1968, 1972, & 2012), and one European Cup Winners' Cup (1970).  This season City had lofty aspirations of winning four trophies: UEFA Champions League, English (aka Barclays) Premier League, FA Cup, and Capital One (aka League) Cup.  To put those aspirations in perspective, no English team has ever won the three major domestic trophies in the same season so City set a very ambitious goal.  Given that City beat Sunderland 3-1 in the 2014 Capital One Cup Final yesterday, I thought it was a good time to take stock of City's chances to hoist four trophies this season.

With the Capital One Cup trophy in had, let's move on to the FA Cup.  City are looking to win the title this season after they lost to Wigan in the final last season.  City knocked off Chelsea at home in the 5th round of the FA Cup less than two weeks after they lost to Chelsea at home in the EPL for their first home loss of the 2013-14 EPL season.  Ironically City now host Wigan in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup.  The other three quarterfinal matches are: Arsenal against Everton, Hull City against Sunderland, and Sheffield United against Charlton Athletic.  If City defeat Wigan, clearly the winner of the Arsenal v. Everton match posses the biggest threat.  Given that semifinal match ups will not be drawn until the field is winnowed down to four clubs, there is a chance City could avoid Arsenal or Everton altogether, which would drastically improve their chances of winning the FA Cup.

Player Rankings
1. Yaya Toure (M, LR 1)
2. Sergio Aguero (F, LR 3)
3. Vincent Kompany (D, LR 2)
4. David Silva (M, LR 4)
5. Alvaro Negredo (F, LR 5) 
6. Samir Nasri (M, LR 11)
7. Jesus Navas (M, LR 6) 
8. Edin Dzeko (F, LR 10)
9. Fernandinho (M, LR 7)
10. Pablo Zabaleta (D, LR 8)
11. Joe Hart (GK, LR 9)
12. Stevan Jovetic (F, LR 14)
13. Aleksandar Kolarov (D, LR 13)
14. James Milner (M, LR 15)
15. Gael Clichy (D, LR 12)
16. Matija Nastasic (D, LR 16)
17. Javi Garcia (M, LR 17)
18. Joleon Lescott (D, LR 18)
19. Micah Richards (D, LR 19)
20. Jack Rodwell (M, LR 20)
21. Martin Demichelis (D, LR 21)
22. Dedryck Boyata (D, LR 22)
23. Alex Nimely (F, LR 24)
24. Costel Pantilimon (GK, LR 23)
25. Erik Johansen (GK, LR 25)
26. Marcos Lopes (M, LR 26)
27. Richard Wright (GK, LR 27)
After City lost to Chelsea in the EPL at the beginning of February, they tied Norwich 0-0 on the road (beat them 7-0 at home in the corresponding fixture earlier this season).  As if a road tie against Norwich was not bad enough, I was forced to watch a grainy/choppy version of the match at Starbucks.  The connective shutouts that Chelsea and Norwich dealt City marked the first time that City failed to score in consecutive games in the EPL since January 1, 2012.  Following two lackluster performances in the EPL, City barely beat Stoke 1-0 at home thanks to a goal by midfielder Yaya Toure.  Keep in mind City had the best home record in the EPL while Stoke had the worst road record in the league.  All told that means City earned merely four points over their last three Premier League matches.  Despite their dip in form in the EPL, City still controls their own destiny even though they are currently in 4th place in the table behind Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal because City have two games in hand.  Obviously every match will matter down the stretch but they have a huge four match stretch starting at the end of March: away against Manchester United (03/25), away against Arsenal (03/29), home against Southampton (04/05), and away against Liverpool (04/13).  Taking all 12 points (4 wins) would be a dream scenario but 10 points (3 wins and 1 draw) is probably the minimum if City want to win the EPL.

City finished second in their Champions League qualification group to qualify for the knockout round of the Champions League for the first time in club history.  The downside of City finishing second in their group was they they drew a club that won their group.  Unfortunately that meant City drew Barcelona, which marked the first time the clubs played each other in a competitive match.  City hosted Barcelona in the first leg of their home-and-home series, which City lost 2-0 thanks in large part to Martin Demichelis getting sent off when he took down Lionel Messi just outside the penalty box. The referee ruled that the offense occurred in the box and Messi converted the penalty kick.  Dani Alves scored in stoppage time to put City in a borderline insurmountable hole.  If City are able to overturn their 2-0 deficit, it will be without the services of their manager Manuel Pellegrini since UEFA handed him a two match ban for his seething comments about the referee's performance in City's 2-0 loss to Barcelona.

When clubs like City are spread across so many competitions, they almost need to have two full starting lineups.  City have that covered at goalkeeper (Hart & Pantilimon), right back (Zabaleta & Richards), left back (Clichy & Kolarov), winger (Silva, Navas, & Nasari), and aerial striker (Negrado & Dzeko).  Unfortunately City do not have that covered at the important positions of central defender, central midfield, and attacking midfielder/withdrawn striker.  News broke recently that City will purchase center midfielder Bruno Zuculini from Racing Club for merely £3 million.  Sadly City will not be able to use Zuculini's services until next season, which might be too late if City actually wants to win more than one trophy this season
.  With the Capital One Cup already in the trophy case I would give City a 85% chance of winning the FA Cup, 51% chance of winning the EPL, and 25% chance of winning the Champions League.

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