A look at Marcos Lopes’ break out performance by @TypicalBlueMoon

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.

lopesart1(Lopes moves into the acres of space, making himself available for a cut-back from Navas, but instead Jesus puts in a cross which is cleared)

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.

lopesart2(Lopes makes a run in a completely unmarked area but Navas, who had an off day, over hit the cross and couldn’t direct it)

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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The City Summary (January 3, 2014)

City enter the FA Cup at lunchtime tomorrow with a third round clash against Blackburn at Ewood Park, a ground with some great memories for Blues. Around 7,000 City fans will make the trip tomorrow, barely less than the expected turnout of home fans.

Pellegrini has warned against complacency against a Championship club that has fallen on hard times, but will make changes with this one of the few upcoming fixtures where he can rest key players.

The continuing absence of squad players, though, means he probably can’t rest as many as he’d like. In addition to Aguero, whose recovery continues, Pellegrini is without Micah, Rodwell, Jovetic and Demichelis tomorrow.

Rodwell is the old new old new name on the list, with Pellegrini saying he has a “small problem with his hamstring”. He didn’t clarify whether the midfielder suffered that in training or during his 6 minute cameo against Swansea. We live in hope that Jack can finally overcome these injuries soon, but for now they continue.

Possible City starting XI vs. Blackburn: Pantilimon, Boyata, Nastasic, Lescott, Clichy, Garcia, Fernandinho, Milner, Silva, Lopes, Dzeko

The Joleon Lescott saga could drag until the end of the transfer window, with more conflicting reports about his future.

The official stance from Pellegrini is that City want to hold on to the England defender, who the manager described as “very useful”, until the end of his contract in June.

Pellegrini did admit that circumstances could change in the transfer window, with a host of clubs keen on him including Turkish side Besiktas, who have confirmed their interest.

Some reports reckon that Lescott is happy to stay at City, while others claim he would like to leave to boost his chances of making England’s World Cup squad.

Spurs boss Tim Sherwood today denied that Spurs have made an approach for the 31-year-old.

Another talking point at Pellegrini’s presser today was John Guidetti.

Pellegrini said that the Swede wasn’t involved at Swansea because of a small injury to his knee, but admitted that a loan move is the best option for him to build himself back up after 18 months out of the game.

Today’s Daily Mail speculated that he is close to joining Mark Hughes’ Stoke on loan, but that is just one of many possible destinations for the young striker.

Aleksander Kolarov reckons more game time is the reason for his improvement this season. The Serb has mostly been City’s number two left-back since Gael Clichy arrived, but has started 17 games this season, more than Clichy.

Kolarov, who has 3 goals and 3 assists so far this season, told the press:

“I am focused on working hard to improve every day.

“I am the same player I was last season and two or three seasons ago. I just didn’t play every game.

“I would play one game and then not play for two or three games. That made it difficult for me to find good form.

“Now I’m playing more often and I’m showing what I can do.”

Marcos Lopes may have a chance of being involved tomorrow and took to Twitter earlier to dispel rumours that his contract is up this year.

Unknown to just about everyone outside the club, the 18-year-old renewed his deal last summer and is here for the long haul.

With the arrival of 2014, Swedish teen sensation Zacharias Faour has officially completed his move to City from Malmo FF.

Faour is said to be an enormous talent and has (unsurprisingly) been compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The 15-year-old told Fotbollskanalen:

“City is a great club with the best players in all age groups. I feel this is a perfect step for me to develop as a player.

“My whole family is moving [to Manchester] with me, which means a lot and is reassuring.

“I don’t really know how big the club’s expectations are for me, but they have said they believe in me. They want to build a team that is the best in the world and it’s great that I’ll be a part of this.”

Faour will play for the U18 (academy league) and U19 (UEFA Youth League) teams.

A member of Nigeria’s U17 World Cup winning side seems to get a mention in every City Summary, and here we go again…

According to reports from Nigeria, Chidiebere Nwakali has flown into England with his mother and brother to complete a move to City.

The versatile 17-year-old, who can play in several positions, will earn £300,000 in wages, fees and addons from the day he turns 18 on December 26.

With the usual work permit issues that accompany young signings from Africa, he is likely to be farmed out to Right to Dream in Ghana or one of City’s partner clubs in Europe.

Still no further updates on Kelechi Iheanacho after reports that the deal for him to join City was back on days ago.

According to Ghanasoccernet, City are yet to find a new club for 22-year-old midfielder Mohammed Abu after a string of disappointing loan spells.

His latest loan move to AGF Aarhus in Denmark was a disaster, with Abu, capped 4 times by Ghana, getting no game time largely due to injuries.

There was contact with clubs from the Swiss Super League in November, but no formal offer was made for his services.

Abu’s only success at club level since City signed him from Right to Dream has been with Strømsgodset in Norway, and a move back there could be an option.

Abu’s contract is due to expire in June and unless he leaves on a permanent deal this month, chances are City will release him with it becoming clear he won’t make it at the club.

The City Summary (December 6, 2013)

We’re just days away from the return of the magician, but tomorrow’s game against Southampton will come too soon. David Silva is almost set to light up Premier League pitches again and will return to training on Monday, Pellegrini confirmed today.

Silva could be fit for the Bayern Munich game on Tuesday night, but it’s unknown if Pellegrini would play him there or save him for the crunch game against Arsenal at weekend. City have already qualified for the next stage of the Champions League and it’d take an unlikely win of 3-0 or the equivalent (4-1, 5-2) to win the group.

Vincent Kompany’s comeback will also continue tomorrow with the City captain expected to start after completing a full 90 minutes against West Brom during the week.

Jovetic and Nastasic remain sidelined alongside Silva, but the mercurial Jovetic should be back next week and hopefully we can finally see more than a preview of his talents in a City shirt.

Think City have injury problems? Southampton could be without far more of their players tomorrow, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Victor Wanyama, Nathaniel Clyne, Morgan Schneiderlin, Artur Boruc, Kelvin Davis, Guly do Prado, Danny Fox and Jose Fonte are all definitely out or in serious doubt. Gaston Ramirez should be fit after recovering from an illness.

Even with injuries and off the back of three defeats in a row, Southampton will be very tricky opponents for City and are likely to raise their game.

Last season they comprehensive beat the Blues 3-1 in this fixture, with the infamous Gareth Barry own goal helping them along the way.

Gareth Barry own goal vs. Southampton

Pellegrini has again showered praise on City icon Sergio Aguero with a cheeky comment to the press:

“I never said he’s the best striker in the Premier League. I said he’s the best player in the Premier League.”

Comparisons have been made lately between Aguero and the sensational Luis Suarez, the two best strikers in the Premier League right now. But Pellegrini reckons the City man is the better player.

“He’s [Aguero] the most complete player. He’s different [to Suarez]. Suarez is a very important striker, but I think Sergio has more parts to his game.

“Sergio is only 25, so of course he can improve. This year he has improved a lot, he’s always a top player and he always scores goals. But what he has added is working for the team without the ball and that’s very important.

“Maybe he’s getting better because he is older. For me, a player has his best performances between 24 and 30.

“He [Aguero] started very young, and every year he is improving. This year the best thing he is doing is scoring goals, but he’s added the work without the ball.”

Costel Pantilimon’s future remains in doubt, despite the Romanian now being City’s regular goalkeeper in the Premier League.

Pantilimon, who hadn’t played a single minute of Premier League football before recently taking Joe Hart’s place, is out of contract next summer and will have no shortage of suitors.

Pellegrini doesn’t seem in a panic over Panti’s situation, telling the press today:

“It’s not an issue we’re talking about at this moment. But he’s doing very well and we will see afterwards about that.

“Maybe it doesn’t just depend on us, as he wanted to go at the beginning of the year – he wanted to go to another club where he could play more. So we’ll talk with him and decide this.

“If he continues with his good performances, then maybe [he will be offered a new deal]. He’s a very good goalkeeper and he’s playing very well.”

You’ve probably already seen the World Cup draw, but here is a rundown of how City players will be involved.

Group B: Spain (Silva, Negredo, Navas) paired with Netherlands, Chile and Australia

Group C: Ivory Coast (Yaya) paired with Greece, Colombia and Japan

Group D: England (Hart, Milner) paired with Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica

Group E: France (Nasri, Clichy) paired with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras

Group F: Argentina (Aguero, Zabaleta) paired with Bosnia (Dzeko), Nigeria and Iran

Group H: Belgium (Kompany) paired with Russia, Algeria and South Korea

Of course, that isn’t a definite list. Some may miss out or others may make the trip, such as Fernandinho if Scolari ever comes to his senses.

Here’s an article from last month that examines the chances of City players going to the World Cup.

John Guidetti’s comeback continued tonight with a goal for City’s U21s against Middlesbrough U21s in the U21 Premier League. Guidetti was said to have looked good and set up another goal.

The highly promising Marcos Lopes also returned from an injury as the young Blues eased to victory.

The other goals came from local boys George Glendon and Jordi Hiwula, and Austrian winger Sinan Bytyqi.

Guidetti’s immediate future should be sorted soon with at least nine clubs interested in taking the Swedish striker on loan in January.

After Wembley in May, City fans may be forgiven for wanting to forget the FA Cup for a while. But it’s almost time for the big boys to step in with the third round draw this Sunday at 4pm.

City will be number 25 in the draw and will want to repeat their Road to Wembley, but hopefully with more of a 2011 outcome than a 2013 outcome!

So, which English players are there out there who could a). be signed and b). are good enough to play for City?

My colleague wrote this exclusive earlier about Pellegrini being keen on more British talent in the squad.

I can think of one player who fits the profile and he’ll line up at left-back against us tomorrow…

The City Summary (October 29, 2013)

It was again Joe Hart’s name on most of the back pages this morning, the treatment of City and England’s number one even more brutal than usual after revelations that he could lose his place on a regular basis.

BXst1R8CAAARDuW.jpg large

Pantilimon will start against Newcastle in the Capital One Cup as he would even if Joe was in peak form, but a decent performance is likely to see the Romanian keep his place for this weekend’s clash with Norwich. Incredibly, Pantilimon has yet to play a single minute of Premier League football in over 2 years at City, but his chance may arrive on Saturday.

Hart, meanwhile, doesn’t think he should shoulder all the blame for the Chelsea catastrophe.

On a brighter note, Micah Richards is edging closer to a new contract after revealing he loves life at City and want to spend the next ten years of his career at the club he joined as a 14-year-old.

Micah has been seeking assurances from City about playing time and keeping his options open since the new contract was offered in early summer, but is expected to sign a new long-term deal before the end of the year.

Losing Richards would have been a blow to City as he is the only academy product currently able to command regular game time when fit. City have serious intent to give the team a greater homegrown feel in the coming years, with more academy graduates making the step up.

Yaya Touré is City’s sole representative on the shortlist for FIFA’s 2013 Ballon d’Or. Marca speculated yesterday that both Yaya and Aguero could be on the list, but Aguero missed the cut. Aguero didn’t have his best season last year, with injuries interrupting it, but if he keeps up his current form will surely be a candidate next year.

Yaya will play no part in tomorrow’s Newcastle game after flying back to Manchester from the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, where he was appointed an ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).


Marcos Lopes will miss out on a rare first team opportunity tomorrow after picking up a minor injury at the worst possible time. Lopes made a big impression in the last round against Wigan and would have hoped to do likewise against stronger opposition.

Newcastle will be missing defenders Fabricio Coloccini and Stephen Taylor through injury tomorrow night, while Alan Pardew is considering leaving out star men Yohan Cabaye and Loic Remy with Newcastle hosting Chelsea in the 12:45pm kick-off this Saturday.

Probable teams for tomorrow’s Capital One Cup match (7:45pm kick-off, Sky Sports 1):

City: Pantilimon, Richards, Demichelis, Lescott, Kolarov, Garcia, Rodwell, Milner, Jovetić, Navas, Dzeko
Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy, Williamson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon, Anita, Tiote, Sammy Ameobi, Sissoko, Marveaux, Cissé