A victory over Hull is vital for Mark Hughes’ side for numerous reasons. First among these is the desire to come out of the demoralising run of six league draws with a victory.
Second is the need to stop Tottenham and others pulling away from us in the pursuit of a Champions League place.
Third is the confidence boost required at the beginning of a tough week of home fixtures. The Carling Cup fixture against Arsenal gives City their chance of a first semi-final since 1981, while the following weekend sees a Chelsea side playing like potential champions come to town.
Anything less than a victory over Hull and the pressure will be on Mark Hughes. Failing to win any of these three games would see greater scrutiny placed on Hughes’ ability to turn us into a ‘top four’ side.
On the other hand, victory in all three would see the manager hailed by his supporters as a man making steady progress. (Currently Hughes has 21 points after 12 games compared to Sven’s 25 points)
With Toure fit, the back four is likely to be unchanged, meaning disappointment for Onuoha and Richards. Vincent Kompany is also unlikely to break into the midfield where de Jong, Barry and Ireland are the more likely contenders for a starting place.
Robinho is available, though I have a feeling Tevez is the more likely to return to the starting line-up in a game where we’re looking to attack the opposition. After such a long lay-off, the Brazilian is more likely to start on the bench.
If Tevez does start, it will be interesting to see who makes way in the centre of midfield. Barry and de Jong has been the preferred pair recently, but both lack dynamism in the opposing half. Barry and Ireland was the preferred duo at the start of the season, then de Jong showed his value and was star man last week. Could it be Barry’s turn for a rest?
With Petrov absent, Bellamy and Wright-Phillips are the most likely starters on the flanks. If Wright-Phillips is struggling to find an end product to his play, then it would be good to see Weiss given a chance on the right wing.
Ideally we would be a couple of goals to the good before bringing Robinho on, rather than needing him to make a breakthrough or worse, to salvage the game.
While Mark Hughes was happy that he got his tactics “spot on” prior to falling behind at Anfield last weekend, it’s to be hoped he has something more ambitious in store. Wayne Bridge was slaughtered for being upfield and out of position against Burnley, so Hughes kept him back and employed Craig Bellamy as a supplementary full-back against Liverpool.
Let’s hope the management find the right balance against a Hull side now being described as ‘resurgent’ following victory over Everton. That win gave them seven points from the last nine, so it could be argued they’re in better form than us.
The embattled Phil Brown is overseeing some see-saw games as he tries to hang on to his job. It’s certainly not dull either on or off the pitch for the Tigers. Their defence didn’t look convincing against West Ham last weekend and we should have enough firepower to cause them real problems.
The obvious dangermen are Jimmy Bullard and Geovanni, so it may be useful to have de Jong patrolling in their preferred area of the pitch. Expect a feisty duel if the competitive Stephen Hunt is up against Pablo Zabaleta.
On the road, Hull’s record is played six, won none, drawn one, lost five. Admittedly that is one draw better than Burnley had managed when they arrived at Eastlands, but still… For a side with Champions League aspirations we should be aiming for a convincing victory.
Last season we won handsomely and were treated to the sight of Phil Brown giving his half-time team talk on the pitch. Given his subsequent fall from grace, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing a repeat on Saturday, though another 5-1 victory would be nice.
Blue Days line-up: Given, Zabaleta, Bridge, Toure, Lescott, de Jong, Ireland, Bellamy, Wright-Phillips, Adebayor, Tevez.
Prediction: 4-1 to Manchester City.