The Etihad Stadium
12:45 Kick Off
At the start of the season very few would have entertained the idea that Manchester City vs Leicester City would be a game between two title contenders and therefore one of the biggest games of the season. However, that is the situation we find ourselves in now, despite how Manuel Pellegrini tried to play it down in his pre-match press conference. He labelled the game as an opportunity to close the gap with plenty of points still available after the game, but this will not curb excitement from football fans ahead of this match.
Jamie Vardy vs. Martín Demichelis
In his day, Jamie Vardy could terrorise Manchester City’s whole four, so City’s only two fit first-team centre backs Nicolás Otamendi and Martín Demichelis will have been studying the Englishman all week. City’s back four have had some struggles this season but have played themselves into form of late with a more frequent supply of clean sheets. “Stop Vardy: stop Leicester” is how many people see this game, and although this isn’t quite fair on Leicester—it certainly wouldn’t harm City. With Demichelis’ good reading of the game and lengthy experience in world football, this could be a tasty clash.
Goalless draw in the midlands… the least said about that one the better.
· Vincent Kompany: training and could be back next week.
· Eliaquim Mangala: should return couple more weeks.
· Wilfried Bony: expected to be in training next week.
· Jesús Navas: minimum of three weeks out.
· Samir Nasri: long-term.
· Kevin de Bruyne: long-term.
It’s been a big week for City, with the announcement that Pep Guardiola will be taking over the Blues come next season. However, Pellegrini was quick to make sure that the focus was put on the game and not on his or Guardiola’s future, during his pre-match press conference. “It’s important for everyone to know that I knew what was happening and that no-one was doing anything behind my back” Pellegrini said, but then quickly switched the focus by stating “just ask me about the team, the game and nothing else.”
Quote of the Presser
“I was so bored in the last press conference that I tried to make it interesting!”—Manuel Pellegrini, on his big mid-week press conference.
A word used to describe Leicester often throughout this season has been ‘surprise,’ as they find themselves sitting pretty at the top of the league in February. A team that some predicted would be relegation candidates this season are taking the league by storm and will be tough opponents for City this Saturday.
Pellegrini was quick to reject the idea that Leicester are a surprise though. “We cannot continue to say surprise about Leicester” the Chilean stated, as he went on to say he is also not surprised by the form of Jamie Vardy either. He compared his time at Villarreal CF to where Leicester are now, as his Villarreal side found themselves in the semi-finals of the Champions League and second in La Liga.
Pellegrini states that he spoke to his players like they were equal—that the other teams in the league were on their level. The respect Pellegrini showed towards Leicester, highlighting their good team play, will hopefully find itself being represented on the pitch this Saturday, as City’s big boys need to make sure they do not underestimate the Premier League leaders.
Something to look out for
With both David Silva and Riyad Mahrez likely to play, keep a close eye on the ball being used as a prop in their dance. The two players will be trying to out-do one another with entries to the showboat with their quick feet.
The start of something new?
With Leicester leading the pack, Tottenham just behind City, and Chelsea struggling near the relegation zone, this seasons has seen a big change. Pellegrini noted that he thinks this is “very good for the Premier League,” stating that “for me, this is the best season.” He even went as far to include six teams in the running for the Premier League trophy; “I don’t think it’s just four teams going for the title—West Ham and United are involved too.” You can make up your own minds about that one.
The Premier League has always been regarded as one of the best in the world, and this is mainly down to the fact that it is so unpredictable! This shift will only see the league improve and offer more hope for smaller teams and potentially a much more open and exciting season ahead.
You would like to think that City have the capabilities to see off Leicester at home, but anything could happen when the league leaders come to town.
That being said, Barclays Player of the Month, Sergio Agüero, will be raring to go. If City get the first goal this game could see them use their experience to get the win, but if Leicester get the goal and the momentum, City will be sailing against the wind.
City 2-0 Leicester.