If City continue to progress in the FA Cup and Europa League then they’re likely to have to play twice a week every week until the end of the season. The league games against Tottenham and Stoke would need to be moved to accommodate cup games with the only available slots being around Wednesday 20 April for Spurs and Wednesday 11 May for Stoke.
Having not played in a cup final since 1981, City could face the ridiculous situation of having to play two before the final league game at Bolton! A replay against Reading could leave City playing three games in one week.
Here’s the potential fixture pile-up:
Thursday 10 March
Europa League: Dynamo Kiev v City
Sunday 13 March
FA Cup: City v Reading
Thursday 17 March
Europa League: City v Dynamo Kiev
Sunday 20 March
Premier League: Chelsea v City
Saturday 26 March
Internationals: eg. Wales v England
Tuesday 29 March
Internationals: eg. England v Ghana
Sunday 3 April
Premier League: City v Sunderland
Thursday 7 April
Europa League quarter-final 1st leg
Monday 11 April
Premier League: Liverpool v City
Thursday 14 April
Europa League quarter-final 2nd leg
Saturday or Sunday 16/17 April
FA Cup semi-final
Moves to midweek: City v Tottenham
Monday 25 April
Premier League: Blackburn v City
Thursday 28 April
Europa League semi-final 1st leg
Sunday 1 May
Premier League: City v West Ham
Thursday 5 May
Europa League semi-final 2nd leg
Saturday 7 May
Premier League: Everton v City
Saturday 14 May
FA Cup final
Moves to midweek: City v Stoke
Wednesday 18 May
Europa League final
Sunday 22 May
Premier League: Bolton v City
Looking at our last two league performances, City’s chances of finishing in the top four could be wrecked by the fatigue and injuries caused by the cup games. Mancini has spoken about the boost of injured players returning. However logic says that if we continue to play twice a week, then we’re twice as likely to pick up more injuries than by playing once a week.
To keep the side fresh for league games, the manager will have to rotate his squad more heavily than he has of late. That should mean the likes of Jo, Wright-Phillips and Boyata starting more games, particularly in the Europa League. Youngsters like Guidetti, Razak and Wabara should also be brought in.
With nine league games and a maximum of eleven cup games to go, there’s a case for saying Mancini should be playing almost entirely different sides, as shown below.
Richards – Kompany – Lescott – Zabaleta
de Jong – Barry
Silva – Y Toure – Balotelli
Wabara – Boyata – Boateng – Kolarov
Vieira – M Johnson
Wright-Phillips/Jo – Milner – A Johnson
It may reduce our chances of winning the Europa League but the difficulty of Premier League matches this season, where every side is capable of getting a result, makes it essential.
Martin O’Neill once fielded a weakened side in the latter stages of the Europa League when he felt there was a chance of Villa qualifying for the Champions League. He missed out was widely criticised. Mancini may have to make the same gamble.
Fans may crave a trophy, but our business model requires Champions League qualification. If he secures a Champions League place, Mancini is likely to be our manager next season. If he misses out, then his job prospects are a lot less secure, regardless of whether he wins some silverware.