Saturday, 8 February 2014 | MYT 7:30 AM
Expect a goal-fest, no less
A file picture of Fernandinho (front). His absence was felt by Manchester City in their defeat to Chelsea. - EPA Photo
MANCHESTER City had their 20-match unbeaten run in all competitions brought to an end on Monday night by Chelsea but they are far from being counted out in the English Premier League title race.
Indeed, despite Manuel Pellegrini’s side losing for the first time in the league at home this term, they remain the odds-on outfit to claim the biggest and most lucrative prize in British football.
The rest of the Premiership would no doubt like to believe that this is the start of their demise, but City will be difficult to beat and Norwich may well be the first to experience the consequences of that narrow 1-0 loss in the Citizens’ last outing.
From a squad perspective, City will again be without prolific striker Sergio Aguero and midfield general Fernandinho – their absence was so sorely missed in their last match. Stricken by injury, these influential stars were not the only Citizens sidelined. They also had to do without Javi Garcia and in particular Samir Nasri, who had been in good form since the season started. Alvaro Negredo and James Milner were on the bench on Monday but did not play – carrying niggling injuries of their own.
Yet in spite of this and regardless of what line-up features today, Pellegrini will expect his side to capture all three points and do it with their usual flair and flowing style.
To some, City might even appear arrogant in their approach, but to the neutrals and growing band of supporters, they are a joy to watch when in full-flight.
Defender Martin Demichelis was used in midfield in the Chelsea game and he could well feature there again, although Milner would likely get the nod if he has adequately recovered.
Demichelis’ shortcomings as a stop-gap defensive midfielder were mercilessly exposed by a Chelsea side that played with a little more conviction. Norwich, though, are unlikely to raise the tempo of the game to the heights that the London club managed to on Monday night.
Yaya Toure and David Silva, by far the chief architects of the demolition of so many teams taken to the cleaners this season, were off-colour in the game that snapped their impressive unbeaten run which included eights straight victories and saw the home side failing to score for the first time in 61 games at the Etihad.
This dynamic duo, along with whoever Pellegrini opts for on the wings, should have enough in them to see off Norwich. And while there might be some substance in the argument that the smaller clubs can and sometimes do spring surprises, City look good enough to do another three, four or more goals against the Canaries.
Chris Hughton’s side are nowhere near as strong or committed as Chelsea and this should become rather apparent today.
City remain in the frame to challenge on four fronts – the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League – and their hosts today could be in for a beating if they concede a goal early on. A sizeable victory would wipe away all the pain of Monday night.
Shaun Orange thinks City will win this by a couple of goals with Negredo at the forefront of their attack.