Naturally for this stage of the season a number of Premier League clubs no longer have anything to play for beyond pride. With league position secure some managers may see this as a chance to plan ahead for next season, or the summer transfer window. No doubt the international break would have given clubs the opportunity to assess their goals, their tactical plans and their squads. So as we enter the home straight, here are five managers who may already have one eye on the future… (Read more)
It isn’t often the reigning Premier League Champions will base their team selection on a routine cup victory over lower-league opposition, but then Manchester City have rarely acted like reigning Champions this season. Jolean Lescott appears to fall further out of favour as Kolo Toure overtakes him in the central defensive pecking order, although Vincent Kompany’s mooted return from injury would see them both dropped to the bench. Elsewhere Roberto Mancini may finally be persuaded to persist with a forward pairing of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez, and Gareth Barry’s poor form may see him dropped in favour of Javi Garcia.
Rafael Benitez has struggled to settle on a favoured system let alone a preferred starting XI during his few months at Chelsea. Initial attempts to withdraw the wide forwards into a 4-4-1-1 appear to have been abandoned, but Benitez will still need to decide between fielding Chelsea’s ‘three amigos’ of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar behind a lone striker or selecting Victor Moses as a natural wide option. Alternatively the Spaniard could opt for caution and deploy either Ramires or Ryan Bertrand in a wide midfield role as he has done on previous occasions. Defensively Benitez still seems unsure of his best back four, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic in contention for the right back slot, and Gary Cahill, David Luiz and John Terry options at centre back. In attack the Demba Ba/Fernando Torres debate continues… (Read more)
When the reverse of this fixture was played back in August, Manchester City were adopting a 3-5-2 system led by Mario Balotelli, and Fabio Borini and Andy Carroll constituted Liverpool’s only back up to Luis Suarez. Two uncertain sides drew 2-2 that day, although Liverpool began to show glimpses of what they might achieve once the squad had adapted to new manager Brendan Rodgers’ tactics. Roberto Mancini has since seemingly abandoned his 3-5-2 experiment, and the current City side should offer a far more imposing challenge… (Read more)
In the wake of Mario Balotelli’s departure from Manchester City, it was reported that part of the reason was a plan to move to a 4-3-3 formation next season. Nobody doubts that Balotelli was mainly sold for disciplinary problems, but it still leaves an intriguing concept. Firstly, the move is likely to have been influenced once again by City’s poor European performance. Secondly, manager Roberto Mancini has never favoured wingers or wide forwards, opting for a 4-3-1-2 ‘diamond’ formation at Inter Milan and preferring a narrow 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 system at Manchester City… (Read more)
There seems to be an even divide between those who believe your first title is the hardest and those who think holding onto it is tougher. Whatever your opinion of that is, Manchester City are only the fifth club to win the Premier League in twenty seasons, but in that time only two clubs have retained it. It is this statistic, coupled with a sense of mischievous humility, that guides Roberto Mancini’s prediction of Manchester United as title favourites. It is also the likely cause of Mancini’s disappointment that City have failed to improve their squad in the close season… (Read more)