It's never fun going to the Etihad to play football, much less the past few years now that Manchester City is actually, y'know, good. Spurs have a daunting task ahead of them to try and get a point from the Champions of England, but try they must.
Ahead of tomorrow's match, I was able chat with good guy and City blogger sonics097 from our SB Nation sister site Bitter and Blue. My return interview with him is also up on their site..
Cartilage Free Captain: City are (were?) expected to challenge for the title this season but appear to have fallen well behind Chelsea here in the early goings after dropping some points. Are there worries about the current campaign thus far?
Bitter and Blue: The City fanbase in general seems pretty pessimistic at the moment. Chelsea have been playing well and some of City's performances haven't lived up to the standard we have seen over the past few seasons. Add to that our continued struggles in the Champions League and you get the 'gloom and doom' brigade coming out of the rafters. We still expect to challenge for the title but a lot of people feel that Chelsea can't be caught, already. Personally, I couldn't disagree more. I'm not saying City will come out and suddenly start demolishing opponents while Chelsea flounder, but I think it's way too early to make any conclusions. I'd have thought that with our first title-winning campaign (coming back from 8 points back with 6 to play) and the second last year (leading the league for what, like 12 days total?), fans would have learned to be patient by now. But I guess that's the world we live in. If you ask me, Chelsea have had an incredibly light schedule so far that has helped them look 'unbeatable'. They got two of the newly promoted sides in their first two games back in the top flight; that's all I'll say on that.
CFC: What's going on with Joe Hart, and will he keep his job ahead of Willy "The Horseman" Caballero?
BB: Hart hasn't been too bad yet this season. He has kept us in a few games, notably the Bayern tilt. His worst moment (unless there is another that escapes me while typing this) was the home loss to Stoke, when Diouf beat him through his legs on a shot he should have done much better on. I do believe he is on a short leash and Pellegrini isn't afraid to plug Caballero into the lineup. We've already seen Willy play in the league against Hull though some people speculate that Pellers did that primarily to rest Hart for our game against Roma a few days later. There are rumors about a new contract being handed to Hart so I'd imagine he keeps the job, but look for Willy to get a good amount of playing time between the sticks as well.
CFC: Who's been the biggest surprise so far in the City squad, either positive or negative?
BB: Well as the media and pundits have reveled over, Yaya Toure has been... not so great so far. This has been a surprise for most people. Whether it's simply poor form or something systemic coming off the back of the summer fiasco with his agent, no one expected this from him. He still has the ability to win a match on his own with a moment of brilliance (hi, Villa) so I'd keep putting him in the starting XI. On the bright side, James Milner has been nothing short of great. It saddens me that this is still a surprise to most people. Milner has deserved more praise than he gets for a long time now.
CFC: City seem to be a bit banged up in the center of midfield, with Yaya Toure likely rested after international duty and Fernandinho injured. With an important Champions League match coming up mid-week, what do you expect the City midfield to look like against Spurs and are you at all concerned Spurs could nick a result at the Etihad this weekend?
BB: This is a tough call. I expect Fernando to start, but beyond that it's tough to say. I sort of expect Pellegrini to just use Yaya until he can no longer walk so I think we may end up seeing him. I wouldn't have much of a problem with starting Lampard or Milner there either, so there isn't a 'wrong' pick in my mind. Without Fernandinho Spurs will undoubtedly have a more mobile central midfielder pairing basically by default, so there is some concern there. I'd never sleep on a game against you guys and we have proven to be vulnerable at home already this season. I still favor City, obviously, but there is opportunity there for Spurs to steal one. Another 13-second goal would certainly ease my mind.
CFC: It's maybe a little early to talk about the upcoming transfer window, but based on what you've seen thus far are there areas that you'd like to see the club strengthen in January? Who's on City's shortlist?
BB: I'm not sure that we have any January targets in mind as City typically don't buy in the January window. In fact, I believe the last first team player we bought in a January window was Edin Dzeko way back in January of 2011. I think it's too early to target any areas of concern, but we could get a better picture as the winter approaches. As far as future summer targets, it seems like Paul Pogba, Ross Barkley, and Marco Reus are all high on our shopping list. As Yaya's legs age the need for a long-term replacement goes and that has me drooling over the idea of Pogba in a City shirt. It's tough to imagine him staying at Juve for a long time so I'll continue to pray that that happens. Of course if he did come we probably wouldn't go after Barkley and attention would shift to Reus, who is also wanted by all the top clubs. Would love to add him as well, but it's probably a long shot/FIFA 15 reality for now.
CFC: What's the club planning for Yaya Toure's birthday this year?
BB: Ha! If it were up to me, a swimming pool filled with red velvet cupcakes with a huge cake of Yaya's choice buried at the bottom. He has to make his way through all the cupcakes to get there, of course. The diving board is made of edible chocolate (don't ask me how that works) and sprinkles rain down from the sky like confetti. They can do a Cake Boss episode about it, or something. Get those guys involved and Yaya should be a happy man.
CFC: Score prediction?
BB: I'll say 2-0 City in one of those grind-them-down type of matches. And because I predicted that it'll probably be the opposite.
Thanks to sonics097 for taking the time to chat ahead of tomorrow's match! Give him a follow -- @nchowdhury07 -- and be sure and check out the return interview on Bitter and Blue when it goes up.