It now seems inevitable that Catalonian super-boss Pep Guardiola will make his long speculated journey to take up the reigns at the Etihad. A number of sources have suggested that Pep will occupy the Manchester City dugout in the summer, and while it may look like such a turbulent move will have a negative impact on a squad many feel is already underperforming, it is not necessarily the case.
The last time it was announced that Guardiola was to replace an elderly manager at the end of the season they went on to achieve a historic treble – admittedly they were Bavarian powerhouse Bayern Munich and were led by Jupp Heynckes; a manager with a vastly superior CV to current City gaffer Manuel Pellegrini. Yet the point remains, despite the speculation and the perceived lackadaisical attitude of players it is not inconceivable that City could do something truly astounding.
Their quest to capture as many trophies as they can carry hit something of a stumbling block, with their midweek loss to Everton, in the first leg of the League cup semi-final. While that will be seen as a quickly redeemable problem the continual issues at the heart of the defence are not. It is mystifying as to why a position that has seen so much investment, and the recruitment of players seen previously as talented, proves to be so porous without the steadying hand of captain and talisman Vincent Kompany.
While Otamendi was perhaps the best defender in La Liga last year and Mangala managed to rack up a number of well-earned French caps while impressing at Porto the combination has proved to be almost comical as the legendarily hapless Newcastle duo of Boumsong and Bramble.
The problem is only exacerbated anytime the veteran Demichelis enters the fray. Incredibly the 0-0 draw with Leicester was the clubs first clean sheet without Kompany all season.
The almost mythical quadruple has been described as “impossible” by Pellegrini, yet the opportunity to capture a couple of domestic trophies is not. Faced with an increasingly competent and confident Norwich City side in Saturday’s 3pm 3rd round fixture, the Citizens have a winnable tie.
Norwich have been quietly impressive in the last few weeks; losing only to Tottenham in their last 5 games. Gaffer Alex Neil has reigned in his previously expansive style and solidified the Canaries significantly.
While the victory at Old Trafford, in what looked at the time to be the final nail in Louis van Gaal’s coffin, garnered the most headlines, more impressively has been their ability to shrug off the sides closer to them in the table. The successive wins over Southampton and Aston Villa have given the club an authentic feeling that survival can be attained.
In the years following Sheik Mansour’s ownership City have had a tendency to steamroller Norwich, yet this season only a late Yaya Toure penalty ensured victory. If Alex Neil is to see his sides name in the 4th round pot, then he will need a similar bullish display.
Manchester City will be without defenders Mangala and Kompany due to injury, while misfiring forward Bony will join them in the stands.
Norwich can name an unchanged side, with no new injury or suspension concerns. New signing Ivan Pinto is eligible to make his debut after signing from Dinamo Zagreb.
PROBABLE MAN CITY XI Caballero, Sagna, Demichelis, Otamendi, Kolarov, Toure, Fernandinho, Silva, De Bruyne, Sterling, Aguero.