Saturday, February 11, 2006

City Preview

With a satisfying win over the European Champions providing a splendid feather in our caps, Charlton travel back to the North West this weekend with the intention of setting right our awful form in the region over the last 2 years.

I’ve been looking at the stats this morning to see just how poor that form really is, and it turns out that it’s even worse than I realised.
Our last 9 trips to the North West have heralded 1 win, and 8 losses, the solitary success coming at Goodison Park last season.
Over the course of those 9 games, we have earned an embarrassing aggregate scoreline of 26-3. There is definitely something in the water up there.

So how likely are we to turn it around?

Last year, if you managed to stop Shaun Wright-Phillips, you stopped Manchester City. We failed to do that at Eastlands last time out, and paid the penalty, getting thumped 4-0.
This year, the want away Joey Barton has had a similar talismanic effect on their side, with the combative midfielder fulfilling the role of both playmaker and ball winner. Much of the final result on Sunday will depend on how Kishishev and Smertin manage to deal with him.

City at Eastlands are a difficult team to predict. There is no doubt that when the crowd get behind them at home the team builds up a head of steam and can be a match for almost anybody, but it is also a ground where the home faithful get frustrated rather quickly if the side isn’t performing as they see fit.
I think that if we are going to win here it is going to take as much blood and sweat as its will take craft and guile.

If we go behind, I don’t know if we will have what it takes to dig ourselves out of the mire, so the game plan should surely be to contain and frustrate City for the first half an hour or so, stifling their midfield and giving no space to Vassell up front, whose pace is always capable of making things happen.

Jerome Thomas should keep his place after a decent display against Liverpool, and he will again provide our main outlet for relieving some of the pressure we will be put under early on in the game.
In my opinion, swift counter attacking rather than consistent pressure is going to be our best bet for getting goals in this fixture. The pace of Bent and Thomas will prove key in that counter attacking, City don’t have much pace at the back.

Past fixtures between the sides have tended to be high scoring affairs, the last 3 games producing no fewer than 15 goals. I also remember goals from that first year in the premiership where we beat them 4-0 at home and 4-1 away.
As for team news, I don’t really expect changed from Tuesday’s XI, but Fortune faces a late fitness test on his rib injury, and Holland is fit again should Curbishley wish to tinker.

I'm away tonight, so there will be no updates to the site until the match report. Apologies in advance.

Cynic Athletic’s Prediction –3-2 Defeat (Barton, Cole 2 – Bent 2)


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