Manchester City F.C vs. F.C Copenhagen
UEFA Cup round of 32, Second Leg
Venue: City of Manchester Stadium KO: 19:45 GMT
As a reluctant winter begins to lose its grip on Manchester, green shoots of recovery have been seen around Eastlands. Rewind to the bleak and frozen month of January and City’s fortunes were much the same as the temperature – below zero and dropping. The side took beatings on the pitch and in the media; deservedly so for some of the woeful performances, but far less deserving of the flak was the transfer policy that the Blues pursued during the New Year window.
For all the jibes aimed at City’s recruitment efforts, amid wild estimates of transfer fees and claims of summer release clauses, the players brought in have begun to show what they are made of, and the core of a good side is beginning to show itself. A battling draw in the first leg of this tie, coupled with an excellent display against Liverpool should provide a platform for improved displays in the final third of the season.
The first leg of the tie ended 2-2 with the Danish side snatching a late equaliser; the result of lax defending down City’s left. The Blues were marginally the better side, and should have closed the game out after a wonder strike from scoring sensation Nedum Onuoha and a volley from Ireland put them 2-1 up. However, City took two precious away goals back to Manchester, and without the blizzard-like conditions of Copenhagen and the vociferous Danish home support, The Blues have an excellent chance to make the quarter finals.
Last Time Out
After a shaky first fifteen at Anfield, the Blues got their act together and in the second half took the game to the lacklustre home side. Good work by Kompany and Robinho resulted in a deflected goal from Craig Bellamy, later (wrongly) “awarded” to Arbeloa as an OG. City could and perhaps should have scored more, also having a Stevie Ireland effort ruled out for offside. The win was not to be, as Liverpool scored a bizarre equaliser through the prolific (against City at least) Dirk Kuyt.
Liverpool: Not actually very good without Gerrard
As a result of their domestic league’s winter break, the first leg of this tie was the Danish side’s first competitive game of 2009. The lack of match practice is bound to have an effect on Copenhagen; Try telling that to striker Morten Nordstrand, who scored all five of Copenhagen’s goals in a 5-2 friendly win against Swedish side Helsingborgs on Saturday.
Vincent Kompany: The versatile Belgian international was integral to City’s display at Anfield, and even greater importance is resting on his shoulders for the remainder of City’s UEFA cup campaign, as his former Hamburg team-mate and new City signing Nigel De Jong is ineligible for the competition. So, the news that Kompany has been playing with a toe injury ahead of this game is somewhat worrying. The club is waiting to see whether the latest injection will allow him to play on Thursday. His absence would be a blow to the team, as the calm assurance he offers would be sorely missed.
Kompany: Toe-ing the line?
Shaun Wright-Philips: The winger should return to the side, and it will be an important game for him to keep his match sharpness as he will miss another two premiership games, the result of the spineless FA disciplinary committee’s ridiculous three match ban. Expect Wright-Phillips to be fired up for this one.
Expect this little fella to be out to impress.
Jesper Christiansen: It has to be really. Guilty of a horrendous mistake in the first leg, the goalkeeper will have to put that error out of his mind as he prepares to face the best attack in England. However, he won’t have plastic fans behind his goal tonight, (If he wants to see the English version he can pop down the road to Old Trafford. Oh no, you can never, ever get a ticket there can you?) and if he lets the inevitable “gratitude” of the City faithful get to him he could be in for a torrid evening.
City at home should have far too much for the Danes, and their lack of competitive action is bound to tell at some stage of the game. If the Blues play to the levels of the draw at Anfield, expect a resounding victory. Care will still have to be taken; as the first leg illustrated the fact Copenhagen have a sting in the tail that could haunt City. Careless defending coupled with a good Copenhagen performance could spell trouble for the Blues. Despite this, City have the upper hand in terms of away goals, class and match sharpness, and expect these to tell on Thursday night.