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Another possible first step to silverware

22 September 2010

The Stretford End banner that City aim to make obsolete this season.

Part of supporting City is hearing all about the club’s 35-year trophy drought. The Carling Cup is the easiest re-entry to the world of silverware, by virtue of clubs playing in Europe needing to win just five cup ties (the semifinal being a two-legged tie) to win it.

Up until last season, the competition’s status as the lesser of the two domestic cups also worked in City’s favor, with a fair number of managers electing to field weakened, youthful teams and, in some cases, almost viewing the league cup as an unwelcome obligation. However, the possibility of seeing The Noisy Neighbors on the brink of forcing down the Stretford End ticker forced Sir Alex Ferguson’s hand, as he named very strong sides for both legs of the Manchester derby semifinal.

Though some people struggle with the concept of something lacking in prestige gaining a measure of it without that making it Prestigious, it seems as though the competition is getting much more respect from managers this time around. Fulham and Stoke City both played their strongest possible teams, while the North London derby saw both managers go with hybrid squads composed of both seasoned first-teamers and youngsters. The notion of earning some stealthy silverware on the sly is disappearing.

City’s first hurdle in the competition involves a trip to West Brom. While it would’ve been great to draw one of the lower-level sides still alive, the Baggies aren’t a bad draw. Playing the cup tie at Eastlands obviously would have been preferable as well, but West Brom’s aren’t the type to park the proverbial bus in front of goal, which bodes well for City breaking them down.

It will be very interesting to see if Shay Given gets his first start in goal for City this season, especially after the degree to which Irish Number One has been in the headlines this week. Emmanuel Adeabyor reportedly is fit again and could make his return from a leg injury.

I’d expect to see Roberto Mancini change up his team to give some games to those like Joleon Lescott, Wayne Bridge, Shaun Wright-Phillips, and Patrick Vieira, who haven’t seen much time on the pitch recently, but without weakening the side too much.

Here’s a stab at predicting City’s team sheet tomorrow:

If all goes well, a comfortable win will see City advance to the fourth round of the competition. I’d love to see another 2-0 away victory, ideally with Adebayor playing and finding the back of the net and Given starting and keeping a clean sheet.

In an annoying twist, there doesn’t appear to be any television for tonight’s match, meaning that I’ll be following online, perhaps by a radio stream if I’m so lucky.

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