They used to say that lightning never strikes the same place twice. Although our friends from Giurgiu have already dispelled that particular myth there is little confidence that the same repeat performance will apply to our game against Manchester City this afternoon.
When we visited the Etihad last September, City had won all 5 league games that season without conceding a single goal. Against all odds and expectations goals from Moses and Sakho saw the Hammers take a splendid 2 goal lead and despite City pulling one back in first half added time, through debutant Kevin De Bruyne, we were able to hang on doggedly adding one more away-day scalp to those already collected at Arsenal and Liverpool. I didn’t expect victory then and I don’t expect it again today. Hope, on the other hand, is always a constant companion.
Head to Head
We have won 11 times in 50 away fixtures to Manchester City and just once since their move to the Etihad. The overall record between the two clubs was fairly equal until the injection of Abu Dhabi money tilted the balance firmly in City’s favour. We have won just 2 of the last 12 encounters as the one time working man’s club from Manchester became a Middle Eastern money pit. Having invested a further £100 million + during the current transfer window to mould the team in Pep’s image, the total spending since the takeover is now nudging towards £1 billion. City could most likely field a complete team who individually cost more than our new record signing.
The full head to head record is as follows:
Definitely sitting this one out are Sakho, Cresswell, Carroll, Ayew, Feghouli and Nordtvelt who are all injured. Mark Noble is expected to return while it is reported that the fitness of Payet and Lanzini are yet to be assessed. With an extra week for an international break on the horizon I doubt either will start with only one on the bench. There are unconfirmed rumours that Payet has not travelled which is likely to raise speculation once more about his future.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t do it this season. We know it’s a big challenge, not only regarding our injury situation, but we are hoping and our whole plan is to have a good game and to get something out of it.”
– Super Slav
The signing of Simone Zaza was too late for today’s match but it will be interesting to see whether Edimilson Fernandes features or is regarded merely as one for the future. Fortunately Zaza has been omitted from the Italy squad and so will not be able to pick up an injury while on international duty.
With no proven striker available and the creative players still missing it is difficult to see how we could possibly surprise City again today. My own suggested would include starts for both Oxford and Fletcher:
The Man in the Middle
Today’s referee is Andre Mariner from Birmingham. Mariner officiated in two of our home games last season; the goalless draw with Stoke in December and the derailing of Spurs title aspirations in March. We should hope that he has a quiet game and does not feel he has to get in on the dubious penalty award at a corner bandwagon.