Date: Monday 28th September
Venue: City of Manchester Stadium
KO: 20:00 GMT
In 279BC, King Pyrrhus of the powerful Greek kingdom Epirus crossed the Aegean Sea to attack the burgeoning, if fragile Roman republic. Pyrrhus’ army was larger and more experienced than the Roman legions that opposed it; after two days’ ferocious fighting at Asculum, the Romans were defeated. However, Pyrrhus’ victory was a hollow one. His army was decimated and his resources were dangerously thin, leading the King to remark “One more such victory will undo me!”
Meanwhile, the Romans were using their greater wealth and resources to recover their losses. They had gone toe-to-toe with one of the established powers of the age, and had given them a bloody nose. Despite its defeat, Rome was in the ascendency: and we all know what that particular city went on to achieve.
So, from the city of Rome, to a City with Roman origins. Manchester will attempt to get back to winning ways in the league on Monday night, against Gianfranco Zola’s West Ham. A grinding victory over Fulham in midweek will have refocused the team after the galling loss to Trafford, and the players should be well rested after a free weekend.
A sketchy start to the season has seen West Ham resident in the bottom three after 5 games, and a loss to City would condemn them to three defeats in a row. However, the Hammers should present the sort of game that the Blues will thrive on. As befitting their manager they are a good passing side who will come to Manc to play a game of football, rather than an attack vs. defence session.
Vincent Kompany, Nedum Onuoha and Robinho are all injured, whilst this fixture will probably be too soon for the return of Michael Johnson to the City midfield. The talking point for the Blues will be the anticipated debut of summer signing Roque Santa Cruz. The Paraguayan striker has been recovering from a knee injury since he put pen to paper in June, and his recovery may boost a City forward line still missing the brilliant Adebayor.
Dean Ashton and Luis Boa Morte are long term absentees, whist there are doubts over the availability of Matthew Upson, Luis Jimenez and the admirable Jack Collison. New signing Guille Franco could be in line to make his debut.
Emmanuel Adebayor has stolen the limelight from the injured Robinho, the Lescott saga bored us to tears, and there has also been the small matter of the Argentine forward who has been welcoming visitors to Manchester. All of these players have been in the media almost constantly, for various reasons.
In terms of kerfuffle-to-effect ratio though, Gareth Barry must rank as the Blues’ best summer signing by a mile. The team has begun to pivot on his passing, defensive awareness, leadership qualities and composure. He is a player who would walk into any of the champions’ league teams’ midfields, and is a permanent fixture in a vastly improved England side. The Hammers will have to knock him out of sync in order to get something from the game, which leads us to:
If the papers were to be believed, one Scott Parker was on the verge of taking up the role that Barry has performed so well. Tabloid reports had the deal done, personal terms agreed and needing only a final “si” from Zola for Parker to join the Blues. Amazingly though, it would seem the media sometimes get these things wrong and the former Newcastle player remains a big part of West Ham’s team. Parker will be charged with the unenviable job of getting into City’s engine room and stopping the big V8s in there ticking over – a job he is capable of doing, providing he is not called to other areas of the pitch for firefighting duties.
Really, City should win this game comfortably. The Hammers are a better side than recent results suggest and are capable of causing the best teams problems, as Liverpool found out last weekend – but they are coming to CoMS on the back of poor form, and with some influential players missing could be in for a tough night. For their part the Blues need to show the defeat at Trafford was a blip, and could also do with ironing out some of the defensive errors which have seen the side concede six goals in two league games. All this should result in a solid three points for Manchester, and a long, empty-handed drive back to London for West Ham.
A massive thanks to “The Man In Blue” from www.mancityfans.net for this educational preview :-) please visit our forum and discuss this and many other footballing topics.