The first ever derby to be played at Wembley is set to prove the greatest test thus far for Roberto Mancini and his team. Since the draw was made United have hit top form, while Mancini suffered his worst match as City manager on Monday – and Tevez is missing.
Once again we are portrayed as the underdogs, with the media talking of a United treble. It’s worth remembering that in the last derby at Old Trafford we were equal to United, losing only to an overhead shot by Rooney, and that’s not going to happen this time.
The return of Micah Richards and Pablo Zabaleta should strengthen our defending on the flanks. This is a crucial area where Ferguson always looks to stretch opponents.
There are concerns however, as Mancini has stated Richards is unlikely to be fully fit. One of Mancini’s many mistakes at Anfield was not giving any game time to Zabaleta. Not having played since the trip to Kiev on 10 March could mean the Argentine is rusty in a game where we need everyone to be at their best.
After the Anfield debacle it would be a surprise to see either Boyata or Kolarov in the full-back positions. Hopefully Lescott and Kompany can restore their previously solid partnership.
De Jong is sure to return and Barry is usually Mancini’s preferred choice alongside him. Whether that selection is justified is increasingly debatable, among City fans as well as Joey Barton.
Mancini has been having words with Balotelli in training this week and it looks like Super Mario will get the nod to replace Tevez. Goodness knows what he will do, but if it’s good it will need to be very good to get the better of Ferdinand and Vidic. United are a different team defensively when those two are together.
Their presence makes it all the more important for City to keep things tight at the back. Balotelli’s best chance of getting the better of them could be his pace. Benitez famously went to Old Trafford, kept it tight, while using the pace of Torres to destroy Vidic.
Following the disaster of our attempt to go toe-to-toe with Liverpool, it would be no surprise to see Mancini take a more conservative approach.
“I think every City fan will be happy if we win.
“If we do that 1-0, it is not important, if we win on penalties it is not important.
“But if we attack and leave United to have 10 chances, that is stupid.
“We have to play our game, as always.”
Dzeko is more likely to be used from the bench, if we need a goal. It’s increasingly obvious that the Bosnian needs decent service from the flanks, and it’s unlikely that Mancini will sending wingers flying forward unless we’re chasing the game.
If we are then Wright-Phillips could come into play. It will be interesting to see if Mancini keeps faith with Adam Johnson or goes for a more cautious option in playing either Milner or Kolarov on the flank. The Serb offered little threat when he played there at Old Trafford.
Scoring the first goal will be crucial. We’re not good at chasing games, while United are past masters of exploiting space on the break. The possibility of 0-0 and extra-time shouldn’t be ruled out. Mancini won’t complain however we get through.
While qualifying for the Champions League is the priority this season, victory over United would be the finest icing on the cake, and give us a realistic chance of one of those trophies that everyone keeps talking about.
Blue Days line-up (4-2-3-1):
Richards – Kompany – Lescott – Zabaleta
de Jong – Milner
A Johnson – Y Toure – Silva
Prediction: 1-0 to City.