City’s end to 2010 (including New Year’s Day) with the effervescent George Caveney, QC.
Five EPL fixtures to take us into 2011, if you include Blackpool at home on 1st January – which I have. What can we expect? How do our feelings about these opponents differ from previous seasons, and where might we slip up?
WEST HAM (a)
Hard to tell what’s going on at Upton Park, really. They’ll have taken heart from trouncing Man Utd reserves in the crappy cup, but beyond that West Ham are in a spot of bother. My perception of West Ham and how we’ll do hasn’t really changed since before the money – I expect a victory.
We’ll be without Tevez, but this might tell us more about Balotelli. I get the impression Tevez is not keen on the Italian Strop, and he was denied some great opportunities at Bolton – he ran well and found space but the feeders were looking to Carlos for the money shot. Hopefully Mancini will introduce the rest of the team to Mario and we’ll get to see why City bought him. I think we’re starting to gel, so…
West Ham 0 – City 3
This will be tough. Despite their stuttering this season, to underestimate Moyes’ men is to lose convincingly. They work very hard and will knock us about if we’re not awake. Their approach is very one-dimensional at times, but when it works, it’s formidable. I don’t see it as the likely loss of five years gone, but we have to be careful with sending too many men up the pitch. I think it’s great, seeing de Jong, Zabaleta and co right in the mix, but this is where Everton could flip us. We need to be cagey, which isn’t ideal.
If we win this game, it will speak volumes of the progress we’re making. But I’m not sure we will. Being optimistic, I predict a nigglesome draw – maybe a red card or two. It’ll be a great game to watch, even if the outcome is frustrating…
City 1 – Everton 1
Before Thaksin Shinawatra and the craziness that ensued… and before Ashley, Allardyce and Kinnear… I kind of saw Newcastle as equals, maybe slightly superior. Many people rightly point out that Newcastle is not as big a club as it thinks and often appears. Huge, passionate fan base, and more recent success than us, but that’s it really – a lot of the Toon pomp still rests on the first Keegan era. That said, we are still a work in progress and need to be patient, but I now see this as a should-win.
Ashley is a dipstick. An absolute tool of a man. But that’s not the topic here. Well, it is a bit, actually, because like most of us, even the daftest Newcastle players are reeling from this, and it’s going to make life unsettled at St James’ Park well into the New Year. I think we should turn up, but I don’t see this being too tough an outing, providing we’re confident. Sure, it will be the same side that has bent Villa over a car bonnet and twisted Arsenal’s nipples quite roughly, but that’s what newly promoted sides do. They will surprise the lackadaisical, and dabble with top six and relegation places all season, then scrape survival. That’s all you can expect if you fire a superb manager. This is your fault, Ashley:
Newcastle 1 – City 4
Hmmmm… right up till this season, I was scared of this fixture. Probably because Martin O’Neil is a remarkable manager, and his absence only makes Villa’s flaws more obvious. Hence Houllier’s expression of concern. Right now they aren’t on their knees, but they are unpredictable, and this is therefore a tough call. If I’ve been right so far – more or less – then we should be riding high and pretty confident. But if we’ve stuttered and the media are on our case about it, this could be a lousy day. And considering we too can be unpredictable, it’s especially difficult to forecast. It always has been, this one.
So, with one head hoping we walk over them in style, and the other wary of a worrying lack of substance and a defeat, I’ll go for the draw…
City 2 – Villa 2
New Years Day. The post-apocalyptic wasteland where statistically speaking there will be more pigeon nutrition in shop doorways than any other day of the year. More pale, juddering fools and remorseful carcasses hiding from the fear under duvets. Anyway. Another yo-yo side that you just can’t pin down, but you’d hope this is a foregone conclusion. Problem is there isn’t yet such a thing in this season’s Premier League – at Eastlands as much as anywhere else. Am I right in thinking we normally do okay on New Years Day? Good. By now we should have a better idea of who’s leaving and who might be on the way, and so far the media circus of transfer speculation has provided a smokescreen for us to steal results. I don’t think we’ll trounce Blackpool, and it could be a bit nervy.
Blackpool will struggle, I fear, as the EPL mainstays fine tune their ways and means to survive yet another season/do better than last time/establish top six or four/go for the title, the yo-yos tend to suffer. And so it goes…
City 1 – Blackpool 0
Too optimistic? I don’t think so. Regardless of how things go overall, I think we’ll be doing pretty well by January 2nd. Then it’s ours to throw away.
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