Carling Cup preview: Manchester City v Birmingham City
The Carling Cup may lack the glamour of the Champions League but there is plenty to interest City fans this evening. Grabbing all the headlines is the likely debut of Owen Hargreaves, three years to the day after he last played a full 90 minutes.
Kolo Toure is also set to return and hopefully we can get a good look at Stefan Savic, who will be hoping for his first competitive start. Roberto Mancini has also promised to have some youngsters on the bench.
It was hoped the likes of Gai Assulin and Joan Angel Roman would feature but given they’re playing an EDS friendly against Bury in the afternoon, that’s unlikely. Of the more established players it will be great to see Balotelli and Tevez getting starts.
Hopefully there will be some strong performances and Mancini will be encouraged to rotate the first team more. Despite the manager’s protestations that he didn’t have enough midfielders, more changes elsewhere could have been made for the Fulham game.
Mancini talks about rotating, but doesn’t always appear to embrace it. After tonight’s game we play Everton, Bayern and Blackburn in the space of eight days. To win both league games and get a result in Munich is likely to need more than a rotation of full-backs alone.
With European football of their own to contend with, alongside the 46 game Championship season, it’s fair to say Birmingham don’t need the additional fixtures of the Carling Cup. Nikola Zigic may return but otherwise Chris Hughton is likely to field a rotated team.
Zigic’s height would present obvious problems for Kolo, Savic or Onuoha, but City will still expect to progress. James Milner may return and Abdul Razak is another midfield candidate, otherwise Zabaleta may be required to shore up the central area.
Blue Days line-up:
Zabaleta – K Toure – Savic – Kolarov
Hargreaves – Razak
Johnson – Assulin – Balotelli
Prediction: 4-1 to City.