Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Race For Fourth — 7 games to go

This has been a quite extraordinary season of football. There's currently a three-way battle for the Premiership, a three-way battle for two relegation places — and of course, a four-way battle for that coveted final Champions League position.

The games keep ticking along, and although we are getting closer to end of the season, we are no closer to determining a clear leader in the race for fourth. It's too close to call. So hopefully a bit of statistical and fixture analysis can ease the nerves a bit and see if fourth is obtainable — or not.

4. Tottenham Hotspur
Games played: 31 (same as City)
Goal difference: +28 (nine better than City)
Recent form: 5 wins. 15 points from 15 possible.
Points: 58 (two more than City)

Upcoming fixtures:
A Sunderland (13th)
H Arsenal (3rd)
H Chelsea (2nd)
A Manchester United (1st)
H Bolton (16th)
A Manchester City (5th)
A Burnley (19th)

Tottenham are currently sitting pretty in fourth position, two points clear of Manchester City. They have not dropped a point in the last five matches — a record shared only with Manchester United, and are currently the second best team in the league on form. They do face a tough, tough run in however. Just three of their final seven games are at home, and two of these are against opposition above them in the table. Having said that, there are a few games against winnable opposition, which gives Tottenham a great opportunity to score the dozen points needed to hit the magical figure of 70.

Predicted points total: 69 (11 more)
Wins at Sunderland, Bolton, and Burnley, whilst gaining draws against Arsenal and Manchester City.

5. Manchester City
Games played: 31
Goal difference: +19
Recent form: 3 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss. 10 points from 15 possible.
Points: 56 (a club record!)

Upcoming fixtures:
A Burnley (19th)
H Birmingham City (9th)
H Manchester United (1st)
A Arsenal (3rd)
H Aston Villa (7th)
H Tottenham Hotspur (4th)
A West Ham United (17th)

City have both the luxury (and the added pressure I suppose) of being in full control of their destiny. Four of the remaining fixtures are at home, and two of the three away games remaining are against opposition flirting with relegation. But the home matches are crucial — especially against Villa and Spurs, two teams with similar ambitions for the top four as Manchester City. This is City though, so you can't rule out a win over Arsenal away and losing to Birmingham at home...

Predicted points total: 69 (13 more)
City have averaged just about two points per game under Roberto Mancini, and this form should continue. Wins at Burnley, Birmingham, Aston Villa, and West Ham, with a draw against Tottenham a season defining moment for both clubs.

6. Liverpool
Games played: 32 (one more than City)
Goal difference: +21 (two better than City)
Recent form: 3 wins, 2 losses. 9 points from 15 possible.
Points: 54 (two less than City)

Upcoming fixtures:
A Birmingham City (9th)
H Fulham (12th)
H West Ham United (17th)
A Burnley (19th)
H Chelsea (2nd)
A Hull City (18th)

It's a kind draw for Liverpool, who play three of the bottom four teams in the final six matches. However, Liverpool's season has been dogged by inconsistency, and they have lost the most amount of matches of any team in the top eight. In addition, they have League games interspersed with Europa commitments, which will test their somewhat thin squad. But with a run home like that, the Reds must feel that they are still in with a shout.

Predicted points total: 68 (14 more)
Wins at Fulham, West Ham, Burnley, and Hull, with draws against Birmingham and Chelsea. But if they manage to sneak all three points in one of those games, it's definitely advantage Liverpool — despite giving up four points and one game to Spurs at this point of the season.

The importance of the final week
As already mentioned, it's way too close to call a definite winner at this stage seven weeks out. But I think we'll be in the exact same position in the last week of the season!

Burnley (19th) v Tottenham Hotspur (4th)
West Ham United (17th) v Manchester City (5th)
Hull City (18th) v Liverpool (6th)

Even discounting the importance of the City-Tottenham on the previous Wednesday, the final match day will serve a dual purpose — deciding who goes into Europe and who drops down into the Championship, with literally tens of millions of pounds at stake in each match! City could very well relegate West Ham at Upton Park, whilst at the same time qualifying for the Champions League, and this scenario could happen at either Turf Moor or the KC! We will see three of the most nerve-wracking clashes of the season, with fans from all teams keeping a watchful eye on the progress of the other two games.

The Fearless Prediction
Well the calculations say Spurs on current form. But I think City have the best opportunity to pick up points, and thus should still be the slightest of slight favourites... can someone can send the Twitcher's mob another dodgy lasagne?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tour Duty: Fulham (Away)

While the lads were back home in Sydney, I was at Fulham to enjoy the heart of the game. I had originally planned not to attend this game due to its ridiculous price however at the last minute I sorted out a ticket for 40 quid. After Spurs win yesterday I knew that we had to take all 3 points if we wanted to stand any chance of playing in the champion’s league next year.

Putney Bridge was the last stop on the tube and as I turned on the automatic navigation system to the ground I took in the good weather and rather nice surroundings. I didn’t really know what to expect coming to Craven Cottage but it was definitely a nice day out.

As I walked into stadium I rather enjoyed seeing the quaint surroundings. A quick walk around the corner lays the river Thames and in another corner is a lovely little Cottage still standing after all these years. I also liked the fact that the Fulham fans didn’t have to be separated by security guards from the city fans and we’re treated like humans, not animals.

Fulham were just coming off a high after a historic win over Italian giants Juventus. The game kicked off and you could tell from the start that we had finally fixed up our shape in our first half dilemma that had cursed us in recent weeks. In fairness it was quite hard to see what went on with the first goal being so far away but Santa Cruz was on hand to bury from close range and the city fans went crazy. A couple of minutes later and with some beautiful inter-play Tevez found the back of the net to put us two up and sailing quite nicely.

From my observations in the first half one player stuck to mind was Vincent Kompany. He kept Zamora at bay all day and really controlled the heart of the defense. Bellamy and Johnson on the wings also gave us that constant threat, not to forget Tevez who gave us that third dimension whilst attacking.

The second half was a bit more balanced with both teams having 50/50 percentage of the ball. On another day city could have scored 4 or 5 goals with some shots just beaming past the goal. A late penalty to Danny Murphy and that really got my nerves going. A few minutes later the whole crowd roared and my heart dropped as their striker Okaka shot which looked like a goal, however looks can be deceiving from down the other end and it went wide for a goal kick. The final whistle went and we had successfully grinded out a result.

A quick hug to the random city supporter next to me and I left to enjoyed the sun shining brightly over the Thames as I made my way back home. Once again, another perfect day supporting the mighty Manchester City FC.

City til we die.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fulham v Manchester City preview

The Overview
Just about every match I mention the fact that it's an important game in the context of our season and the race for fourth spot... but it's true. Every game from here on in is just about a must win. And with Tottenham playing Stoke and Liverpool playing the Rags, it's a chance to gain some points on our rivals.

The key to this match is Fulham's fixture list. They play Juventus in a Europa League tie Thursday 8pm, followed by the league clash on the Sunday, and then it's the FA Cup replay against Tottenham on Wednesday, and to Hull on the following Saturday — four games in ten days.

Fulham don't have a big squad by any means, so you would imagine fatigue is an issue. Something that you don't want against the blistering pace or work-rate of Craig Bellamy and Carlos Tevez.

Wayne Bridge is not eligible for selection, after undergoing a hernia operation. He is expected to be back within a month. Apart from that, most of our key players are fit. Having said that, Roque Santa Cruz might pull a hamstring walking down the stairs between now and kick-off...

The Form
Fulham at home: 9-2-3
• Have not won in five matches in the league.
• Last win was against Birmingham at Craven Cottage on 21 February.
• Playing game five of seven in a 23 day period in March.

Manchester City away: 4-7-4
• Unbeaten away in the last three league matches.
• Sixth in the league currently — can move as high as fourth with one game in hand over Tottenham, and two in hand over Liverpool.

The Betting
Fulham $3.00 Draw $3.20 Manchester City $2.20
Suggested bet: Over 2.5 goals @ $2.10
Prices courtesy of and are subject to change.

The Place To Watch It
If you're in London, then of course it's at the ground. However, Fulham are charging a ludicrous £49 for the privelege. Apparently because our owner is rich, it means our fan base is too. When you factor in travel, beer, food, and beer, it's definitely not cheap. I can't imagine City taking the full allocation to this one — which is a shame, because it's a fantastic away day.

If you're fortunate to live in Sydney, then obviously the answer to this is Cheers Bar. Kick off is at 2am, but I suggest you get there early, because...

This match is preceded by the Rags v Liverpool at 11:30pm. Taking into account that we're watching the game at an Irish pub the weekend after St. Patricks' Day, after the two teams most synoymous with Irish supporters... it will be chockers. If you are not wearing a City shirt, you may not get in.

The Fearless Predicition
Fulham 1 Manchester City 2.
Last season: Fulham 1 (Bullard) Manchester City 1 (Benjani). Oh, and I was there!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Where are they now: Danny Tiatto

"As far as I'm concerned, Danny Tiatto doesn't exist." – This was the famous quote by Kevin Keegan as Danny’s city career began to wind down. After wearing the sky blue for over 139 appearances he was known for his hardman-like attitude and ill-discipline. He wasn't a bad player by any means – he won the player of the season award in 2000-01 – but it was his temper he was most noted for, such as the time he lashed out at a water bottle after yet another sending off.

Danny then made the move to Leicester City, winning the player of the year award in 2005 voted by the supporters. After becoming the club captain Danny then made his way back to home soil to play for the Brisbane Roar.

After three seasons playing for Brisbane Roar and scoring twice, Tiatto was fell out with the coach (Danny getting in an argument? Never!) and made the move down to Victoria to play in the state league for the Melbourne Knights. He may still yet make a return to domestic football in Australia with rumours suggesting that he will sign a one year contract with the new Melbourne A-league team Melbourne Heart.

Throughout his career he has shown 110% on the field and refused to change his playing style. He scored 15 times during his 18 years of his senior career and played for the Australian national side 23 times.

He was the player that made me become a Manchester City supporter and helped exposed me to all the wonderful things to do with this club.

So Danny, thank you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

MCFC Australia HQ Launches

After a couple of years in the wilderness MCFC Australia is back online.

The site will be a one stop site directing fellow fans in Australia to find their local MCFC pub and join in the banter on dedicated social media groups. As the site will not be regularly updated I do advise that you check the local sites/blogs of each state branch and join up to your local Facebook group.

With only a handful of Australian footballers to grace the fields of Maine Rd and Eastlands I think Danny Tiatto has to be the face of the MCFC Australia HQ and he will be forever remembered for his no nonsense attitude on and off the pitch, thank you Danny.

Please help spread the word of this site.

City 'til we die,

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We Didn't Start The Fire (a.k.a 'The Season So Far')

With City's next match still the best part of a week away, things are a little slow — so I asked Billy Joel if he'd like to give his take on Manchester City's season to date (as you know, New York is a City stronghold). He said he'll knock something up, but he had some drink-driving to do first. Here's the result.

Gareth Barry, Stuart Taylor
Con-fed Cup and Vuvuzelas
Santa Cruz, Hart to Blues
No Samuel Eto'o.

Caicedo gone, Elano too
Hughesy signs Emmanuel
Brand new kits, Lescott bids
Jo back out on loan.

Carlos Tevez, Old Firm
Wins at Wolves and Blackburn,
Crystal Palace, and Bar-ce-lon-a away

Ben Haim, Richard Dunne
City's brand new captain
Ade's stamp
Van Persie's face
Lose four-three on Derby Day!
We didn't ruin football.
They were always lending but now "too much spending!"
We didn't ruin football.
No the 'Sky Four' made it but we might just raid it.
Point at Wigan, Robi off?
Back to bench for Petrov
Dunney's header
Johnno's better
Half the team is crocked

Draw with Hull
Birmingham and
Burnley too
Tev-ez ave-rage?
Hughes to lose his job?

Bolton, Tott-nam
Hughes last game at Sunderland
Carling Cup win
Carlos goals
Conf'rence for Roberto

Robbie scores
Goes on loan to
Adam J
Derby Days
Even more for Tevez!
We didn't ruin football.
They were always lending but now "too much spending!"
We didn't ruin football.
No the 'Sky Four' made it but we might just raid it.
February and March
George Boateng
We drop points at Hull again
Shaun goals
Long throws
Rory gives
Cup woes

Delap hauls it
long this time
Terror on the goal-line
Shay won't come out to collect
Shawcross heads it in the net

Katie Tevez
Doing fine
Sydney Blues play five-a-side

Trafford's debts
Left unchecked
Bridge rejects

Liverpool a scoreless draw!
Banner still reads thirty-four!
Lose and "Bobby's out the door!"
I can't take it anymore!
We didn't ruin football.
They were always lending but now "too much spending!"
We didn't ruin football.
But when we are fourth, Blues will march on and on and on and on...

You can watch the original here, and see just how much I butchered it. You will have to skip the verses from 1:39 through to 2:56 though — not enough months in a year!

But yeah, sorry Billy for ruining a great song.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tour Duty: Chelsea (Away)

There was only one thing on everyone’s lips and that was the Bridge/Terry saga. Even though city were playing away, it was a home game for myself only having to travel 40 minutes by tube. Fulham Broadway was the last stop on the way to Stamford Bridge and it was packed with fans from the Russian Empire, I felt a little out of place but it just added to the experience.

I didn’t really have any expectations before kick off but I would have been happy to take a draw. My seat was nicely placed in row 2 of the upper tier and I have to thank a particular celebrity poster from the forum ‘Bluemoon’ for helping me with a ticket.

The paparazzi were in full force as Wayne Bridge approached John Terry for the handshake and as Wayne ignored Terry’s hand a chorus of boos rang around Stamford Bridge. I must say that this shows the true class of Chelsea fans considering his done nothing wrong and was a loyal servant for their club.

The game started and the city fans were in full voice from kick off. It was a tactical battle from the get go and Chelsea took the lead from a typical Lampard strike. After the goal we started singing the chant of ‘34 years and we’re still here’ and at that moment I just felt so proud to be a blue. Little did I know what the football gods had in store for me on this afternoon in London when Tevez made a dazzling run around the defense and put the ball in to the back of the net just before half time.

The second half truly came to life with great goal to Bellamy, a red card, another goal for Tevez, another red card, another goal for Bellamy and another goal for Fat Frank. For my first away day I don’t think I’ll be able to top that for quite some time.

As I walked out of the stadium and got back onto the tube with the thousands of Chelsea fans I couldn’t help but smirk the whole way home. Karma has a funny way of coming around to bite you in the ass, so to all them Chelsea ‘fans’ that decided to boo Bridge during the game, I think karma just bit yours.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Robinho scores a goal-and-a-bit vs Ireland

Ex-City player (only at home though) Robinho only occasionally showed why we spunked £32 million for him during his time at City — yet he always seems to deliver the goods for the Brazil national team.

Robi scored one, was off-side for one, and delivered the cross that led to own goal in the recent 2-0 friendly win over a Republic of Ireland side featuring Shay Given, with reserve player Greg Cunningham on the Irish bench.

Stephen Ireland did not feature for some reason... of course we've always wondered "woy doesn't Stevie Oireland play fer Oireland?"

But whether Robinho comes back to City as a new player (or if indeed, he comes back at all) after his loan spell remains to be seen. But it's in our best interests for him to do well — even if the only reason is we can sell him in the off-season without making too much of a loss.

You can watch the highlights below.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Etihad Coming Home comp — Not starring the Sydney Blues

The finalists for the Etihad Coming Home comp have been announced, and as expected, we were not on the shortlist. Quite simply, we left everything too late, and were banking on being accepted right at the end, when most of the entries would have been submitted. I blame Gav for never being available to shoot the bits in front of the Opera House... ;)

If you haven't already seen it, here is the (unsuccessful) entry:

It's a little bit disappointing when you go to such an effort of filming a whole match (twice), then having to sit through the resulting footage for the couple of clips you need, as well as shooting other bits and working on a script and all the rest of that — only to be denied by someone with a sob-story, a photo, and a few paragraphs that would have taken fifteen minutes tops.

So who do we get behind? My vote's going to Paul Dallavalle from Melbourne — a true blue who was committed enough to come up for the Australian Blues Weekend. Best of luck Paul.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Our record against the Super Sky Four

One of the things that the weekend's victory over Chelsea highlights is just how good we've been against the so-called 'Big Four' this season. In fact, our points-per-game against Chelsea, the Rags, Arsenal, and Liverpool even surpasses those teams above us in the table.

Bearing in mind we have two fixtures to come (Manchester United at home and Arsenal away, both in April), our current record in all competitions against the aforementioned Big Four is as follows:

Arsenal (h) W 4-2
United (a) L 3-4
Liverpool (a) D 2-2
Arsenal (h) W 3-0
Chelsea (h) W 2-1
United (h) W 2-1
United (a) L 1-3
Liverpool (h) D 0-0
Chelsea (a) W 4-2

In nine matches, this gives us a record of five wins, two draws, and two losses, at an average of 1.89 points per game, and scoring 21 goals to 15 in the process. Compare this with Chelsea and the Rags, who sit on 1.86 and 1.43 points-per-game respectively, in all matches against 'Big Four' rivals plus City (and before you have a go at my maths, these figures include all domestic matches against the other teams, including fixtures in the League Cup and the Community Shield. It's correct, trust me).

What does this tell us? Firstly, never write of City in any match, despite the opponent. Secondly, there's a bit of money to be made from the bookies...

But it proves once and for all that we are more successful against the more skillful teams — those that prefer to play football rather than long-ball merchants or big-eared mugs throwing the ball into the net. It also shows that the teams traditionally pencilled-in for Champions League football before the start of the season are actually able to be beaten — both at home and away.

Did anyone in their wildest dreams actually think it would be possible to do the double over Chelsea? Or to come within Fergie Time of snatching a draw at Vermin Towers — not once, but twice? Or to beat Arsenal so convincingly at home in the League and the Carling Cup?

We're also the only team in the league not to be beaten at home this season. Yes, we may have dropped too many points in the form of draws to the likes of Hull, Burnley, and Fulham, but Fortress Eastlands is still intact. Which is very important considering we still the likes of United, Aston Villa, Tottenham, and Everton are all yet to visit. These will be key fixtures in the battle for fourth.

At the end of the campaign, whatever the outcome, whether we qualify for Champions League football or not, we will look back at the moments that define the season, whether it be conceding a late equaliser to Burnley or victory at Stamford Bridge. Considering our current form against the Big Four, there is no reason that Mancini and his men should fear any side we face. After all, if we can beat Chelsea, we can beat anyone. Even Stoke. Maybe.