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The good news is that this will take place at Fortress Etihad, where City have been so strong this season.
The bad news is that it falls just before the Barcelona home game and City would ideally have liked to make wholesale changes, but if they do that now it risks an FA Cup exit.
The English powers-that-be have often been criticised for not helping out their teams in Europe, but will surely have to put this game on the Saturday (February 15), or else City will be playing Chelsea on Sunday (February 16) and Barcelona on Tuesday (February 18).
Chelsea have no European game that week, so don’t have that worry and will be able to field their strongest side no matter what.
Either way, this is a season of blockbuster games for City! And those on the FA Cup scheme are assured that tickets will be priced no more than £25 for the Chelsea game, as stipulated by the club.
Yaya Toure has admitted that he may quit international football after this year’s World Cup.
Yaya, who turns 31 in May, has been considering his international career for some time, especially after back-to-back African Cup of Nations tournaments in 2012 and 2013 meant City were without him for many important games.
The World Cup would be an ideal time for him to bow out and would mean he could skip the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Morocco.
Africa’s best footballer said:
“I will see what happens at the World Cup. It’s a very difficult decision and I want to do it at the right moment.
“I am thinking about it, but I haven’t decided when it will happen.
“I want to leave with a good name, in a good moment. The generation of players we have has always been regarded as something special, so we all want to give something good to remember.”
City are long-term admirers PSG and France midfielder Blaise Matuidi and according to Canal+ in France, have offered him a bumper £8m signing-on fee to snub PSG’s new contract offer and join the Blues on a free transfer next summer.
26-year-old Matuidi is an excellent holding midfielder who Carlo Ancelotti described as one of Europe’s best last season, and PSG’s president was recently adamant that he will sign a new deal.
It’s thought that some legal issues with his former agent are holding up the new contract and that City are using this time to try and convince him to swap Paris for Manchester, with wages of around £100,000-per-week said to be on offer.
Matuidi is very happy in Paris and it has been expected for a while now that he’ll stay, but City’s offer of a big signing-on fee, a good wage and playing in a superior league may tempt him.
City have dealt with his current agent, the notorious Mino Raiola, before, when signing and selling Mario Balotelli, and Txiki is reported to have been in dialogue with him.
Garcia has improved considerably lately, but City still rely too much on Yaya and Fernandinho, and the addition of a top level midfielder like Matuidi would give Pellegrini more options.
Another midfielder linked with City today is Benfica’s highly rated 20-year-old, André Gomes.
Benfica have just sold Gomes’ rights to super-agent Jorge Mendes for £12.5m, giving Mendes full power to sell the Portugal U21 international to another club this January.
A Bola names only City as a potential destination for Gomes, described as a technically excellent young prospect, while UK-based sources suggest he has been offered to Liverpool.
Gomes is not yet a regular for Benfica, playing mostly for their B team in Portugal’s Segunda Liga, and is a work in progress, so whoever signs him is likely to loan him out or put him into their reserve team.
City’s signing of Bruno Zuculini, another highly rated midfielder who will join in June, may limit their interest in a player of a similar age and position.
Two months ago I wrote an article on the FA Youth Cup winning side of 2007/08.
One of the stars of that team was Vladimir Weiss, who City staff and fans had huge hopes for. But at the age of 24, the Slovakian winger is becoming something of a journeyman and his latest move has left many startled.
Weiss has been a regular this season for Greek champions Olympiacos, who have just signed Abdisalam Ibrahim from City, even playing regularly in the Champions League and scoring a wonder goal against PSG.
Yet he has made the strange choice to join Qatari side Lekhwiya SC. No doubt the money will be good there, but at 24 surely he should be wanting to play in Europe and in the Champions League.
Many City fans had been expecting United to overturn a slender 2-1 deficit and if not for David de Gea’s butter fingers they might have won on the away goals rule and set up the first ever major cup final between the Manchester clubs.
Instead, City fans can put the body armour away and expect more of a friendly day out at Wembley on March 2nd.
City have been given an allocation of 31,580 for this game, with adult prices ranging from £40 to £100. Most season card holders should be able to get a ticket, but those on the League Cup scheme will be rewarded for their loyalty by having first dibs.
You can find ticket prices and criteria at the official site.
City have bought a majority 80% share in the club, with NRL club Melbourne Storm picking up the other 20%. Much like the City/Yankees collaboration with New York City FC, this seems a smart move and will enable City to tap into the knowledge of local businessmen.
CEO Ferran Soriano said the intention is to make Melbourne Heart, which is more than likely going to be renamed Melbourne City, into a major player in Australian football. Right now, they sit bottom of the league and have the fourth lowest attendances in the A-League.
Premier League fans will be familiar with their captain Harry Kewell, who spent years in England at Leeds and Liverpool. Former Dutch international Orlando Engelaar and former Coventry striker Michael Mifsud also ply their trade for the club.
Melbourne Heart play their games at beautiful AAMI Park, which seats 30,050 fans. Some will wonder if they might move to Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium, but with a current average attendance of around 10,000, a 50,000+ stadium might be too much, too soon.
City want to revolutionise football and are looking to create a “family” of clubs around the world, who will share the same footballing philosophy and scouting networks, while maintaining strong ties to the local community like City.
No major announcements are planned until mid-2014 and Melbourne Heart’s season is likely to end without too many changes.
Manchester City are now the second highest earners in English football, behind only United.
The annual Deloitte Football Money League was released yesterday and showed that City have overtaken Arsenal and Chelsea this year with record turnover of £271m.
This makes City the sixth highest earning club in the world, not bad for a club that those with heads buried in sand believe relies entirely on a wealthy owner.
These figures should also mean that City comply with the first monitoring period of Financial Fair Play, though the official financial report is yet to be released.
The area in which City lag behind their rivals is matchday revenue, with City’s ticket prices, considered to be the best value for money in the league, and lack of corporate/executive seats making for comparatively low matchday income, despite average attendances of around 47,000 (more than the likes of Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool who have higher matchday revenue).
The stadium expansion will improve matchday income significantly with many more premium seats to be introduced, along with more standard seats that will include the much talked about £299 value season tickets.
The full breakdown can be seen below (click to enlarge).
City have yet to reveal the extent of Alvaro Negredo’s shoulder injury after he landed heavily against West Ham.
He was seen leaving Bridgewater Hospital in a sling on Wednesday, but the Daily Mail reckons it is nothing serious and he should be back for the Spurs game next week.
Pellegrini should clarify The Beast’s condition at tomorrow’s press conference.
With City playing in the Capital One Cup final on March 2nd, the Old Trafford derby, which was scheduled for March 1st, has been postponed.
United will have that weekend off while over 30,000 Blues travel south to Wembley.
The new date of the match is yet to be confirmed.
The 22-year-old, who has been fairly outspoken to the Norwegian press about a lack of chances at City, was granted an early release by City, half a season before his contract was due to expire.
Despite links to many big clubs, including Arsenal at one point, Ibrahim has flown to Greece and will join former City youth team-mate Vladimir Weiss at Olympiacos in the coming days.
It’s thought that Olympiacos will loan him out to Crete-based club Ergotelis FC for experience.
Ibrahim made three first team appearances for City’s first team, including a Premier League appearance against Liverpool in 2010.
Best of luck to Abdi on his new adventure.
City have been rebuffed in another attempt to sign Real Madrid defender Pepe, according to El Confidencial.
30-year-old Pepe was City’s number one defensive target last summer, with Pellegrini looking for a high-level defender to add experience to the defence.
With young defender Raphael Varane badly injured at the time, Real wouldn’t sanction the sale of Pepe and that stance hasn’t changed.
City had to settle for Martin Demichelis instead, but with Joleon Lescott on his way out in the near future, City are looking at defensive options.
Both Kurt Zouma and Eliaquim Mangala have been targets, but deals for either are difficult this month. City have been very interested in Mangala, but Porto want around £40m for the young Frenchman, a price City feel is too high.
If a defender isn’t signed this month, City will hold on to Lescott until the end of his contract in June.
In the same article as the Pepe news, El Confidencial had a snippet on Isco. Remember him?
Nasri’s blistering form this season has made the Isco saga easy to forget, but he was one of City’s main targets last summer and was tipped to follow Pellegrini from Málaga to Manchester.
The Spanish publication claims that Isco, now of Real Madrid, is considered “persona non grata” (a very unwelcome person) at City, because he had given the club his word that he’d join, but went back on that when Real dispatched Zidane to lure him to the Bernabéu.
Of course, football is a fickle business and if Isco does ever become available, an apology could quickly change things…
Marcos Lopes is held in high regard by City chiefs and City fans alike, and the 18-year-old showed the neutral just why with a man of the match performance against a full strength West Ham side last night.
Manuel Pellegrini fielded a strong team despite having a healthy 1st leg lead, which more or less indicated his desire to win every possible game, whether it’s a final or a dead rubber.
It was the usual fluid 4-2-2-2 formation with Aguero and Negredo upfront, Navas on the right, Lopes on the left, Fernandinho in box-to-box role, and Garcia the deepest midfielder.
With so much emphasis on offensive movements under Manuel, it’s imperative that players on the either flank put in a shift to help out the defence. Lopes provided just about the perfect cover possible for Clichy, preventing any possibility of overloading of wide areas by West Ham.
You don’t generally see an 18-year-old so aware of his defensive duties, which is why Marcos’ performance stood out. One would expect him to fizzle out towards the latter stages of the game due to his tireless running throughout, but it wasn’t the case, which showcased his desire to keep going.
Even with his defensive duties, he didn’t lose his effectiveness offensively, constantly making runs in the final third, shifting into pockets of empty space, getting into good positions, and making himself available to receive the ball.
His spatial awareness is as good as anyone in his age group, maybe even better. Lopes was continuously looking to move into vacant spaces throughout the game.
Due to his low centre of gravity, his balance enables him to ride over the challenges and to control the ball extremely well in tight areas (i.e. Aguero’s goal and a solo run towards half time), as if the ball was glued to his feet.
He used his pace to good effect, knowing when to accelerate and leave his marker for dead. So it came as no surprise that he made 4 dribbles, with only Kun (7) making more amongst City players yesterday. He is blessed with quick feet and has more than decent pace.
Marcos looked calm and composed on the ball and was not hasty in making passes, a common drawback one can see in inexperienced players. Even when he lost possession, Lopes was determined to win the ball back. His work ethic and tenacity warrants special praise, and he made 5 successful tackles, with only Fernandinho (6) making more in the match.
For someone of his physique, the former Benfica youth fearlessly went into 50/50 duels against a fairly physical Hammers. He also displayed his intelligence as a player by putting his body right behind the ball and thereby reducing the risk of losing the ball and helping in drawing a foul.
Lopes put it on a plate for Negredo’s opener, literally. The ‘Beast’ didn’t even had to move, just directed the ball towards the back of the net. Horrible defending by West Ham, I must add.
The second goal was purely about Lopes’ brilliance. He showed exceptional balance, taking on 3 players before pushing the ball through to Aguero. Technically speaking, the ball fell to Sergio from a deflected pass and hence doesn’t count as the youngster’s assist as per the widely accepted Opta method. That takes nothing away from him, though.
The only area where I felt Marcos could have done better was putting more weight in few of his passes. His passes were fairly accurate (88% completion rate is impressive) but he could have pushed the ball out with a more effort a few times so that it reached his team-mates a fraction quicker.
With our next game being against Watford at home, Lopes has a good chance of retaining his place in the team after a great performance against West Ham.
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Pellegrini’s merciless holistic army made it 18 games unbeaten tonight with an easy win over West Ham in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi final.
City were never in any danger of losing their 6-0 lead, but Pellegrini named a fairly strong side with Aguero and Negredo up front, while West Ham were close to full strength from what they had available.
City’s team did have an element of youth about it with 18-year-old Marcos Lopes starting and Boyata returning at right-back. Both had fine games, but it was the performance of Lopes that really stood out tonight.
Lopes was a menace to West Ham’s experienced defence (average age: 30), especially in the first half, his pace and low centre of gravity causing them problems.
Just 3 minutes had passed when a perfect Lopes cross found the unmarked Negredo who added yet another goal to his collection with a header.
20 minutes later and Lopes went on a mazy run, taking several West Ham defenders out of the game before giving the ball to Aguero, who skillfully scored his 22nd goal of the season.
City were finding it all too easy but what was impressive was that they were still working hard, Lopes for example tracking back and completing 5 successful tackles, an amazing feat for an attacking midfielder.
What also stood out about Lopes’ performance was his maturity. Rather than playing like the usual kid who looks overawed and meek, “Rony” was fully involved in the team and his team-mates looked like they trusted him, often giving him the ball.
Many youth players don’t grasp the chance when they’re given it, but Lopes did. Pellegrini said after the game that Lopes has a “great future” and this performance may give the manager reason to use him more often.
The second half was little different to the first. West Ham huffed and puffed, having a couple of penalty shouts that would have been soft if given, but were outclassed by the well oiled City machine.
The race between Kun and Negredo for top scorer continued as Negredo used his incredible strength to shrug off West Ham defenders and score from a tight angle.
This was Negredo’s 23rd goal of the season, again making him the club’s top scorer. What an amazing signing he has been at £16.4m!
Besides another fine performance and win, the big news was the long awaited return of Stevan Jovetic, who replaced Aguero for 25 minutes. He showed a few nice touches and flicks, but the most important thing was that he got through the game unscathed.
Jack Rodwell also returned from another injury and was good after coming on for Garcia, completing 100% of his passes and using the ball well.
City could have had more and threatened to make it a 10-0 aggregate score, but Chris Foy took pity on the Hammers, adding just 1 minute of stoppage time when there probably should have been about 4 minutes.
So it’s back to Wembley, a stadium we’ve become very familiar with in recent years after forgetting what the place looked like! The only question remaining is, United or Sunderland? We’ll find out tomorrow.
West Ham: Jaaskelainan, Taylor, Johnson, Tomkins, Rat, Diarra, Diame, Nolan, Morrison, J. Cole (Downing 47), Carroll (C. Cole 46)
Subs not used: Adrian, Chambers, Jarvis, Collison, Noble
Manchester City: Pantilimon, Boyata, Lescott, Nastasic, Clichy, Navas (Kolarov 78), Garcia (Rodwell 63), Fernandinho, Lopes, Negredo, Aguero (Jovetic 65)
Subs not used: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Dzeko
Goals: Negredo 3 + 59, Aguero 24
TKA Man of the Match: Marcos Lopes
Stats courtesy of WhoScored:
City are 6-0 up from the first leg and unless the most incredible of all “Typical City” moments occurs tomorrow, the Blues are heading to Wembley for the Capital One Cup final.
This gives Pellegrini the opportunity to rest whoever he wants as City’s non-stop fixture pile-up continues, and could mean starts or at least appearances off the bench for Jovetic and Rodwell.
Pellegrini hasn’t given any official update today on who might play or miss out tomorrow, but Marcos Lopes also trained with the first team today so could again be involved.
Micah Richards trained separately and is suffering some stiffness in a leg, nothing serious but the same problem that kept him out on Saturday.
With Sam Allardyce admitting West Ham will field pretty much a full strength team, Pellegrini may risk City’s incredible unbeaten streak of 17 games if he significantly weakens the team.
But with a 6-0 lead and huge games against Spurs and Chelsea on the horizon, it would be worthwhile gamble to keep some of our overworked players fresh.
Turkish news source NTV Spor released some (alleged) quotes today from Joleon Lescott where he (allegedly) said: “I want to play football and join Besiktas.”
Besiktas were the first team to be linked with Lescott in the January transfer window, but these quotes seemed out of character from a man who has been a perfect professional at City.
The Turkish media have a tendency to exaggerate or blatantly lie, as we saw when Kolo Toure was supposed to be leaving City for two or three Turkish sides, but didn’t.
So it’s no surprise that Lescott’s representatives have quickly come out and confirmed he never made those comments.
It isn’t out of the question that Lescott could still leave this month, but if he does it will most likely be to a Premier League side, with West Ham having already offered him a lucrative financial package if City sanction his departure.
Harry Bunn has ended his 13 year association with City by joining Huddersfield Town on a permanent basis.
The 21-year-old striker has been on loan at Huddersfield and playing for their U21 team, but he and City reached a mutual agreement to terminate his contract, allowing him to join the Championship side permanently until the end of the season.
Bunn, son of former City reserve team coach Frankie Bunn (who now works at Huddersfield with another ex-City coach Steve Eyre), was a very prolific goal scorer for City’s youth teams.
He hasn’t yet been able to reproduce his youth record at senior level during several loan moves, but has a long career ahead of him and we wish him the best of luck.
Inter Milan are keen on promising City defender Karim Rekik, according to Sky Italia transfer master Gianluca Di Marzio.
The Serie A club sent scouts to watch both Rekik and Memphis Depay play for PSV against Ajax yesterday, a game PSV narrowly lost 1-0.
19-year-old Rekik is one of City’s best youth prospects and is very highly regarded by City chiefs, particularly Patrick Vieira who said in 2012 it would be a failure if Rekik doesn’t make it at City.
Rekik has played well for PSV, despite the club struggling after a promising start to the season, and has even captained them.
He was called up for the Dutch senior national team last August, but an injury that required surgery deprived him of what could have been a first cap.
Despite Inter’s interest, City are unlikely to entertain offers for the Dutchman who has been with the club since he was 16.
City made wholesale changes again, with 14-year-old Brahim starting and setting up City’s first goal, scored by Joe Hardy.
In an eventful last 15 minutes, City won TWO penalties, the first of which was soft and saw Kashiwa’s goalkeeper sent off. Both penalties were scored by Ghanaian youngster Collins Tanor.
The match finished 3-0 to City and Barcelona’s win over Aspire Qatar sets up a mouthwatering match for 5th place on Wednesday between City and Barca. This is scheduled to kick off at 2:45pm GMT on Wednesday and will be streamed online.
If you missed our morning exclusive, City are on the trail of Sevilla left-back Alberto Moreno, and could challenge Real Madrid for the 19-year-old starlet.
Click here for more details on that, including Roberto Martinez’s opinion on the Spain international.
It would seem City are not letting the grass grow under their feet and we have been making serious moves for Sevilla’s brilliant young left-back Alberto Moreno.
And it could be third time lucky doing business with his club if our director of football, Txiki Begiristain has his way.
City have recently been linked with a £30m move for Southampton starlet, Luke Shaw, although Pellegrini has known for months the starlet favours a move to Chelsea this summer.
Almost completely off the radar is Moreno, who seems to have come from nowhere to break into the Spanish national team this season and already earned two caps.
City’s chief Spanish spy, Rob Newman, has also been to watch the player on a number of occasions over the last three months.
Real Madrid have a declared an interest but ‘Cheeky’ has been laying the groundwork for a good while and there is a feeling our good relations with Sevilla could tip the balance.
Moreno has also been linked with United in recent weeks (who hasn’t?) but they could be in for a shock with the bidding starting at £25m.
A contact of ours was recently in the company of Everton boss Roberto Martinez, who stated Moreno will be the best left-back in the world very soon.
This kid sounds dynamite.