And so we have reached the moment of critical mass, where a difficult game at home to Leicester is standing before us.
Manchester City face Leicester City at home in the rearranged Premier League game on Monday evening, knowing a win is the only result that matters if we are to stand any chance of retaining the title. Nothing about this game looks easy and I have not yet met a single City fan who is relaxed about the prospect of watching.
There are different ways which fans can be managing the anxiety of supporting Manchester City at these moments. Some choose alcohol or recreational substances. Some choose to get together and share the anxiety amongst friends. Some religiously follow increasingly bizarre routines to maintain luck. Some hide behind cushions. However it is you are planning to support City then please do it as I think they will need a helping hand over the finish line.
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City have been grinding out results in recent games rather than blasting teams away and come into this match knowing all the pressure is on them. Leicester are unencumbered by any expectation – even from their own supporters – so can face this match with freedom and impunity.
Leicester present an alarming combination of factors for City at this point in the season. They are much improved under Rodgers from the tactical confusion which surrounded some of the Puel regime. In many ways they have gone back to an earlier style of fast counter attacking, designed just to release Vardy.
Whilst City fans bemoan the regularity with which teams come to the Etihad and “park the bus” making games steady attempts for us to break down the stubborn opposition, Leicester may prove to be rather more like Spurs. We know our one achilles heel with the Guardiola system is we can be vulnerable to losing the ball high up the pitch making fast counter attacks possible. Leicester will be focussed on trying to catch us on the break, knowing our own anxiety may even make us more susceptible.
The way in which we would normally countermand these threats would be to ensure we had pace at the back and an effective defensive screen from Fernandinho. Whilst Gundogan offers great passing he is less effective at screening the defence. Guardiola will therefore need to work to ensure a strategy is in place.
Guardiola has a welcome difficulty as he must pick a group of eleven players who he considers are most able to win from the considerable array he has available. Will he go with his most experienced side or will he feel the creativity of Foden may be necessary to unlock a stubborn side? Given the way Leicester may seek to use their own full backs it is probably important that we deploy Sterling and Sane to keep them fully occupied? Or will this be the game where Mahrez comes back in from the cold?
Well whatever the side the task is daunting. We must hope for all our nerves that City are somehow able to leap into a fast and unassailable lead. However we are all expecting typical City to intervene at some point. Time to hop on and get ready for the ride.
Predicted Staring XI
Walker, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko
Gundogan, Silva, Bernardo
Sane, Aguero, Sterling