Preview: Manchester City v Wigan
Despite City’s poor record against Wigan, there are reasons to be optimistic about tonight’s fixture. Following wins for both Spurs and Liverpool, victory is essential and Mancini’s new attacking style should be improved by the return of Emmanuel Adebayor.
While City coped well without him in three away games, the failure to create a clear-cut chance in the second half against Everton should ensure his return to the starting eleven. Santa Cruz was impotent against Distin and Jagielka after useful showings against Sunderland and Fulham.
“We have missed Emmanuel a lot and his return will give us a major boost for the run-in.
“If we can play with Manu and Carlos for the remaining matches, I think we’ll be fine as they seem to have a very good understanding.”
Shaun Wright-Phillips also offered little threat, so Bellamy and Johnson ought to retain their places on the flanks in a 4-4-2. Mancini often springs a surprise and there’s a chance he could match Wigan’s 4-5-1, but that often leaves us struggling to break the opposition down.
With Barry, Vieira and de Jong all fit and fresh it will be interesting to see who gets the nod. Vieira is looking better and will be pushing for a starting place. Will Barry ever get rotated?
Against Everton, Mancini went for the defensive strength of Zabaleta at left-back and this left us compromised when supporting Bellamy in attacks down the flank. Bellamy likes to cut inside and the overlapping runs of a left-footed Bridge or Garrido stretch the opposing defence. As a result the Spaniard may get a recall tonight.
The form of both Richards and Zabaleta is decent, if not spectacular, and either could play at right-back. Micah would give us additional aerial strength, particularly if Vieira doesn’t play, though Mancini always seems to find a place for Zabaleta.
Wigan have developed a reputation for unpredictability, though this appears exaggerated with a lot more bad than good results. Their multi-national recruitment policy sees players like Rodallega produce moments of brilliance, while at other times they can collapse badly.
Manager Roberto Martinez tries to get them playing good football, yet they have a defensive frailty which City need to expose. If we get an early goal and continue to go at them, then this could be an opportunity to improve our goal difference. Getting bogged down and allowing them to turn neat passing moves into a goal could be catastrophic for our Champions League ambitions.
The pressure is on at City, yet we now have players and a manager who are used to these situations. This is as good a chance as any to improve our record against Wigan.
Blue Days line-up: Given, Richards, Garrido, Toure, Kompany, de Jong, Vieira, Johnson, Bellamy, Tevez, Adebayor.
Prediction: 4-o to City.