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The Week In Review

City have spent the last week underling their determination to reach their lofty ambitions of football domination. Firstly, there was the exciting, if somewhat complacent, 3-2 victory over Bolton on Sunday afternoon. Just yesterday, City finally completed the signing of French silk merchant Samir Nasri from Arsenal. Today, one of City’s many dreams became a step closer to reality when the Champions League groups were announced.

The game against Bolton was an entertaining affair. City were, at times, outstanding with the likes of Edin Dzeko, David Silva, Sergio Aguero and James Milner shining brightly. The pick of goals came courtesy of a thunderbolt strike from Gareth Barry. City were most dominant and pleasing on the eye when the score was 3-1. However, City will rue to two rather sloppy goals they conceded which took the shine off an impressive performance. Credit should be given to Bolton manager, Owen Coyle, who clearly injected a dose of his passion for the game into his players, who never gave up.

Nice shorts - Bolton Manager, Owen Coyle

Roberto Mancini finally secured the services of creative midfielder Samir Nasri this week. Nasri’s protracted transfer should prove to be a great addition to the City squad, giving City an obvious alternative to David Silva. Nasri will become a valuable member of the team especially considering City will have a tough inauguration to Champions League life.

EA Sports' Crystal Ball - Nasri scoring for City

The tension of following the Champions League group stage draw on BBC live text coverage was, at times, too much to handle: it was feasible at one stage that City could have been drawn in the same group as Barcelona and AC Milan. With a strange sense of nervous excitement building and, rather aptly, Well I Wonder by The Smiths playing on my personal stereo the tension was relieved to a certain extent when City avoided Barcelona and AC Milan. Having said that, City will not have an easy ride. They were drawn against Champions League veterans Bayern Munich and Villarreal and fellow Champions League newcomers, Napoli. Nothing in the Champions League is going to be easy, especially when City are involved.

So, exciting times ahead for City! To see the match highlights of the Bolton game click here. The full Champions League group draw is below:

Group A: Bayern Munich, Villarreal, Manchester City, Napoli

Group B: Inter Milan, CSKA Moscow, Lille, Trabzonspor

Group C: Manchester United, Benfica, Basel, Otelul Galati

Group D: Real Madrid, Lyon, Ajax, Dinamo Zagreb

Group E: Chelsea, Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen, Genk

Group F: Arsenal, Marseille, Olympiakos, Borussia Dortmund

Group G: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit St Petersburg, APOEL Nicosia

Group H: Barcelona, AC Milan, BATE Borisov, Viktoria Plzen

Words by Rob Toole

Though there has not been any football to report on this week has seen Roberto Mancini come out with some classic comments to keep us entertained. Inoculated City can’t help but wonder whether he is having a laugh and playing with the press which love to exert pressure on him.

Following Mancini’s comments after the Sunderland game last week where he put football in its place by suggesting that real pressure is only experienced by those who go to war, not those who play football (see last week’s blog), he has taken a different tact this week and is seemingly having fun with the media.

The big news this week is Manchester United player, Wayne Rooney’s two match ban as a result of swearing to a camera after scoring a hat-trick against West Ham. Whether the punishment is right or wrong is open to debate but it seems a little far fetched for Mancini to suggest that he is “disappointed” that Rooney will miss the FA Cup Semi-Final clash between City and United. Although, Mancini explained he felt this way because in the big games you want the biggest players’ playing which, on reflection, is true. It may be a disappointment for the neutral that Rooney will be absent. Yet, surely for Mancini he must be delighted that such a potentially threatening footballer is going to be absent. Isn’t Mancini just having a laugh with press and trying to wind up a few people in the process?

Are You Having a Laugh?

What was astounding was the way in which the media pounced on Mancini’s comments as if they were deadly serious. The BBC boldly splashing headlines on their website to give the effect that war had just broken out. Having said that, that is one of the beauties of foreign football managers in English press conferences: the manager often doesn’t fully understand the press and vice versa. The miscommunications can often be comical as proven on this occasion.

Mancini also spared some time to put Joey Barton in his place this week. In response to Joey Barton’s rant about the state of the England team and, in particular, the branding of Gareth Barry as a “teacher’s pet”, Mancini simply stated “Joey Barton is a good player but Gareth Barry is a fantastic player.” Though opinion is divided on Barry amongst the City faithful he is definitely a fantastic player compared to Barton.

Prize buffoon Robbie Savage also got in on the act on Match of the Day 2 as he carefully scrutinised Barton’s every move against Aston Villa on Sunday. Savage was clearly unhappy with Barton’s comments and simply demonstrated that Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshire, the players Barton singled out, are in fact better than Barton. Whether you agree or not is really not the point but you have to admit it was funny.

So in a week with no football, Roberto Mancini has ensured that he has kept the City fans entertained with some strange but wonderful commentary. For a refreshing insight into the irritatingly monotonous Wayne Rooney ban saga I strongly recommend watching Charlie Brooker’s take on it all from last week’s 10 O’Clock Live.

Next week: it gets serious again. City take on Liverpool on Monday night in the league and then it is the big one: the eagerly anticipated FA Cup Semi-Final against United. At least you can rest assured there will not be any swearing as foul mouthed tyrant, Wayne Rooney, will be watching from the stands.

Words by Rob Toole

This week provides a summary the last two weeks of the key events in the life of Manchester City. Last time out Inoculated City was eagerly anticipating the return leg of the last sixteen Europa League tie against Dynamo Kiev in Manchester and the trip to London to take on the slightly resurgent Chelsea. What a disappointment both games turned out to be. Nevertheless, the misery was cut short by an international break and City announced their return to Premier League action with a thumping win over Sunderland on Sunday.

Prior to last week City failed to overcome the deficit against Dynamo Kiev after trailing two-nil after the first leg. After the game the spotlight fell on Mario Balotelli who did little to help his team. Balotelli missed a sitter from three yards after three minutes and received a straight red card for a reckless kick to the opposition just before Aleks Kolarov put City into a one-nil lead on the night.

Balotelli seeing red against Kiev

Inoculated City can’t help but think that had Balotelli remained on the pitch City would have won. The post match scrutiny was, on the whole, harsh but fair, yet in some quarters represented vicious, mindless journalism. You would be forgiven for thinking that Balotelli had started a war. It is worth pointing out that after the sending off City performed admirably as a team and at times you may not have realised that City had ten men. It was not to be City’s night though and it could well be a blessing in disguise in the sense that the team can recover some energy to put on a real fight to earn a top four position in the league and perhaps even win the FA Cup.

Following the disappointment of the Kiev game City did little to resurrect confidence amongst their supporters with an ultra negative performance against Chelsea. City did not deserve anything from the game and made it far too easy for Chelsea to claim the points. This performance coupled with the Kiev, or perhaps Mario Balotelli performance, led to intense scrutiny which quite frankly made me quite sick of football for a short while. Thankfully the international break came along to alleviate the pressure on City and the media’s attention fell on the running joke of Mr Fabio Capello.

After the international break City marked their return to league action with an emphatic victory over Sunderland in Manchester. City ran out five-nil winners thanks to goals from Adam Johnson, Carlos Tevez, David Silva, Patrick Vieira and Yaya Toure. The pick of the goals came early on as Johnson combined well with Yaya Toure to calve the Sunderland apart. Johnson, with plenty of space inside the penalty area, thumped City into the lead.

City’s refreshingly attacking approach allowed them to stroll through the game but it wasn’t until the second half that Sunderland truly fell apart. City added three after the break and the perhaps the most comical moment was Yaya Toure’s goal. Toure took advantage of a suicidal ball across the face of goal from meat head Lee Cattermole, to slot neatly past the despairing Sunderland stopper.

Johnson powers City into lead against Sunderland

Of the win over Sunderland, Roberto Mancini’s response to his team being under pressure was excellent and not only put the pressures on Manchester City into perspective but football in general. Mancini stated that “We play football, we don’t go into war. It’s impossible to have pressure.” Spot on!

All in all, the result has given City a real boost going into the climax of the season. There is a renewed air of confidence around City which is surely a good thing as City’s next challenge is an away trip to a resurgent Liverpool. Inoculated City strongly suspects this encounter will not be the stroll in the park that it was earlier in the season. On that occasion City ran out three-nil winners.

Next week there is no footballing action for City as they have to wait for a week to play Liverpool on the Monday night slot.

Words by Rob Toole

Another mixed week for City; a turn of phrase Inoculated City has been using all too often recently. With no outright good or bad weeks recently, City kept up the trend with the abysmal performance against Dynamo Kiev on Thursday in the Europa League and then followed it up with a hard fought victory over Reading to book a trip to Wembley to face our noisy neighbours, Manchester United, in the FA Cup.

The game against Kiev was an unenthralling affair in which City rolled over and allowed Kiev to earn a deserved two-nil victory. City now have a tough challenge to overturn that deficit in the return leg in Manchester next week. Although I have every faith that City have three goals in them, I just cannot see it on this occasion.

Nevertheless, the game in Kiev was not a memorable one. The freezing conditions could offer some explanation for the humdrum performance, but it should be not used as an excuse. Kiev played with pace and desire and City were the opposite; sluggish and inefficient.

City’s defence was simply not good enough and was punished as a result. The first goal from Andriy Shevchenko could have been prevented. David Silva allowed the cross from Yarmolenko to be made far too easily and Aleks Kolarov was not alert to the movement of Shevchenko. Also, had Joe Hart not strayed from his line in attempt to intercept the cross he may well have blocked the inevitable shot.

In the second half City pressed more, but failed to create any clear cut chances. It was rather against the run of play when Kiev scored their second. On this occasion Oleh Gusev taking advantage of a free ball in the box to volley confidently past Hart. The game finished two-nil and to cap off an embarrassing night it emerged that Mario Balotelli suffered an allergic reaction to the grass. Rather strange and unfortunate for someone that plies their trade on that very surface.

So, City face a difficult challenge in the return leg in Manchester. In spite of this, City’s prospects in the FA Cup look somewhat brighter as they saw of the challenge of Reading. The game was a tense affair and City battled hard to earn a one-nil victory. Reading played well but barely created. City created plenty of chances and it would have been an emphatic victory has City been sharper in front of goal.

City, however, had to wait until 79th minute to break the deadlock: thanks a powerful Micah Richards header from a Silva corner. The relief was evident amongst the fans; the joy was clear to see for the players. Even Roberto Mancini showed more emotion than his usual reserved self by hugging Richards after his goal.

Richard's celebrates his goal against Reading

City face the challenge of United in the semi final at Wembley in April. It is exciting to think that if City were to win the game they should theoretically go onto win the trophy. Stoke or Bolton, the other semifinalists, you would think, should not beat City on such occasion. But you never know in football, especially with City. It would be typical for City to beat United in the semi final and lose the final.

Inoculated City is hopeful and confident that City can end their long wait for some silverware and taking down United on the way would make it even sweeter. Before I get accused of being obsessed with United, as per the accusation towards City fans, may I point out the 35 year banner hanging in Old Trafford to mark how many years it has been since City won a major trophy. Surely that is evidence that United fans are in fact obsessed with City? Make your own mind up but take that into account when you do.

Next week City attempt to make the up the deficit against Dynamo Kiev in the 2nd leg of the last 16 Europa League. Also, City travel to London to face Chelsea in a crucial game in the Premier League.

Words by Rob Toole

It was a fine week for City with two victories in the FA Cup and in the Premier League. Of course there was a bit of controversy thrown in, in typical City fashion, with the Kolo Toure positive drugs test being revealed on Thursday.

The first challenge of the week was Gerard Houllier’s Aston Villa in the 5th Round of the FA Cup. I suspected before the game that it would be a far tougher game than it was in reality. City simply strolled through the game at a leisurely pace and found net with relative ease and surefire class. Not to take anything away from City, but Villa fielded a weakened side leaving out the most obvious threats of Stewart Downing and Ashley Young. Darren Bent was ineligible due to being cup tied after his January move from Sunderland.

In spite of Villa’s weakened side City approached the game with pace and intent and this paid off after Yaya Toure found the net after five minutes. Toure capitalising on some sloppy defending from a City corner. The Ivorian’s shot threatened to bust the net such was the power. As Alan Partridge would say “he must have a foot like a traction engine”.

City were clearly in control of the game and it was one of those occasions in which you just knew City would definitely win. An occasion to savor as that it is not a scenario City find themselves very often!

City doubled their lead after twenty five minutes; Mario Balotelli justifying his nick name, ‘Super Mario’. Although he is super in a rather different way to his fictional, dungaree wearing, moustache bearing, computer game character namesake. Balotelli ran onto a lofted through ball from Yaya Toure to take the deftest of touches and float the ball into the top left of the corner of the goal. The finish was sublime especially considering the ball was on the rise as Balotelli struck it. A lesser striker could have easily blasted the ball into row Z.

Super Marios

A large part of the reason why Villa were nullified from the word go was David Silva. Silva is simply astounding and Inoculated City will not tire of singing his praises. The silky Spaniard has given City an extra dimension and the ability to calve open the sternest of defenses. Silva’s efforts were rewarded with a fine goal on the seventy minute mark as he drove a low shot from the edge of the penalty past Brad Friedel.

So, a fine three-nil victory against Villa has allowed City to dream of potential FA Cup semi final at Wembley. Although, City have to beat Reading first and when City are involved it is very rarely a foregone conclusion.

On Thursday it was revealed that Kolo Toure had tested positive for “banned substance” on a doping test taken on the day of the Manchester derby. As a consequence, he has been suspended indefinitely by the club until the legal investigation has been resolved. This is a major blow for City as they need all their players at this crucial stage of the season.

It has been suggested that Toure took his wife’s dietary supplement which Inoculated City would like to think would not result in a lengthy ban. It is a rather inconvenient turn of events for City and it was great to see Mancini dedicate the subsequent victory over Wigan to Toure who was only able to watch from the stands. Mancini has in effect shown a huge vote of confidence to Toure and this can only be good for him and the rest of the City squad.

The Wigan game on Saturday was not a pretty spectacle and bared very little resemblance to the performance against Villa. City had the better of the first half and David Silva enabled City took a lead into the second half. Silva’s rather tame strike should not have threatened but Wigan ‘keeper Ali Al Habsi was unable to collect the ball and let it slip through him to trickle over the line.

David Silva

The second half was a different kettle of fish and Wigan had a number of chances to equalize, the closest chance falling to Conor Sammon in the last seconds of the game. In the end City held on to claim the three points. City did not play well but managed to win. It is modern day footballing cliché that a sign of a great team is being able to get results even when playing badly. I noticed that in the post match scrutiny there was no mention of this cliché attributed to City. Although, I suspect that if Manchester United or Arsenal had won in this manner this cliché would be nauseatingly attributed to them without hesitation.

Nonetheless, this does not particularly matter, what matters is that City picked up three points and a good week was made even better by the fact that Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham all dropped points. Inoculated City reckons a rather apt conclusion to the week can be found in the words of Alan Partridge: “the proof is in the pudding and the pudding in this case is a football”.

Next week City take on Dyname Kiev in Ukraine in the first leg the last 16 tie in the Europa League on Thursday. Also, on Sunday City welcome Reading to Manchester for the FA Cup Quarter Final, giving City the chance to take a trip to Wembley for the first time since the infamous Division 2 Play Off Final against Gillingham in 1999.

Words by Rob Toole

The week ended on a rather disappointing and sour note as City laboured towards a score draw with Fulham. This was immediately followed by a rather frosty handshake between Roberto Mancini and his predecessor, Mark Hughes, who is the current Fulham manager.

There was a slight reprieve from City’s humdrum league form earlier in the week as City comfortably booked their place in the last 16 of the Europa League by beating Aris Salonika.

It was evident that City were in no mood for messing around against Aris as the team sheet, on paper, looked potentially lethal. Mancini opting to play Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and Carlos as a forward three with David Silva tucked in behind.

Within fifteen minutes it seemed the team selection was proving to be lethal on the pitch, not just on paper: Edin Dzeko firing City into a two goal lead early on. The opportunity for the first goal was gifted to City as Aleks Kolarov pumped a long ball up to the Aris backline and Nikos Lazaridis completely miscued his clearance allowing Dzeko a clear sight of goal. Dzeko carried the ball forward and neatly slotted into the bottom corner of the goal to give City an early boost.

Dzeko celebrates against Aris

The second goal soon followed as Silva ran the ball down the left wing before laying the ball back to Tevez. Tevez picked out Dezko who was lurking on the edge of the eighteen yard box. Dzeko cut back inside to bring the ball onto his left foot and he cannoned a low shot into same corner as the first goal. This was a fine team goal which demonstrated the mouth watering potential of City’s forward line.

With City up to a two goal advantage early on, the game leveled off to a certain extent. You would have thought the two early City goals would have silenced the loud and passionate Aris fans yet they continued to sing. Although, they continued to sing the same rather monotonous song which seemed to act as a lullaby and send the players and a large proportion of the City faithful to sleep which could have been the reason why the game slowed down somewhat. Who knows?

The game livened up just before half time and Dzeko should have sealed his inaugural City hat-trick but fluffed a one-on-one chance with the Aris ’keeper, in rather similar fashion to the Notts County miss last week.

The second half was a bit of a non-event as City were seemingly comfortable to sit on their two goal advantage and Aris barely threatened. City threatened to make it three nil at times and Mario Balotelli came closest with a fine low effort from inside the penalty area that hit the post. Yaya Toure made sure of the victory not long after as he collected the ball from thirty yards out and fired a powerful shot towards goal. The shot took a deflection and nestled in the bottom corner of the net to leave the Aris’ keeper dumbfounded.

All in all it was a comfortable night for City as they brushed aside Aris Salonika to ensure a last 16 tie against Dynamo Kiev, who you would suspect would pose more of challenge to Mancini’s men. City were not so comfortable in the Premier League tie against a resilient Fulham side. City never really got going and stumbled and staggered to the final whistle to share the points. City took a first half lead thanks to superb strike from Balotelli from outside the penalty area. The goal silenced a few of his critics which he seems to have to do on a weekly basis these days. I would suggest ten goals in sixteen appearances offers the perfect answer to his critics.

Nonetheless, City, as a team never got going and Fulham got themselves back on level terms soon after the break courtesy of a Damien Duff goal. Duff firing past Joe Hart after a low Andrew Johnson cross. The game ended one all.

Mancini and Hughes handshake

However, the real spectacle of the tie came after the final whistle as both Mancini and Hughes exchanged a rather frosty post match hand shake. Mancini seemed unwilling to make eye contact with Hughes and Hughes took exception to this and pulled his hand away in disgust. I’m not too sure why Hughes was so disgusted but I felt Mancini defused the situation in rather comical fashion when asked what it was about he laughed it off and said ‘I don’t know, I don’t know what to say…I don’t understand’. So it was a frosty return to Eastlands for Mark Hughes but I’m sure he’ll have the last laugh as he has dented City’s top four aspirations slightly by taking a valuable two points off City.

In other news this week, it is expected that David Silva, who was absent for the Fulham tie, and Vincent Kompany should return to the City line ups at some point next week for the visits of Aston Villa in the FA Cup 5th Round and Wigan in the Premier League.

Words by Rob Toole

It was a good week for City all in all. With a break from Premier League action the Europa League knockout stage took precedence. City travelled to Greece on Tuesday to take on Aris Salonika in the last 32 First Leg tie and the week was brought to a close with the rather inconvenient FA Cup 4th Round replay against Notts County in Manchester on Sunday.

To Greece and City fielded a strong team that on paper threatened to take an away goal advantage into the second leg. However, the game itself was a dire, lethargic affair. Perhaps the best chance fell to Edin Dzeko who headed well from an Aleks Kolarov cross but the Aris ‘keeper managed to tip the ball over for a corner.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the cameraman felt the same sense of tedium as many of the viewers when there was a technical fault with the cameras with around ten minutes left of the game. Maybe there wasn’t a technical fault perhaps the cameraman just had enough. This break nonetheless allowed the tedium of the game to be replaced the tedium of Andy Townsend’s self-congratulatory on the spot punditry. Fortunately, this didn’t last for too long and we were allowed to witness the close of the game. The game ended a bore scoreless draw and I would like to think that City have enough in their basket to finish the job next week.

Going into the game against Notts County I couldn’t help but think that City may well slip up taking into consideration the manner in which County conducted themselves in the first leg. I thought my worse fears were coming true in the first twenty minutes as County piled the pressure onto City. This culminated with a fine long range curled effort from Karl Hawley which hit the post and bounced back across the face of the goal.

The only relief from this early pressure was a rather inarticulate gentleman who was sitting near me in the stadium who shouted murderer at Lee Hughes every time he touched the ball. Depending on your outlook this rather tongue in cheek provocation provided a certain air of comic relief to the early dominance of County.

After the Hawley effort City seemed to wake up and were able hold possession more comfortably and gradually exert pressure onto County. The pressure proved too much for County when Patrick Vieira headed in just before half time from a corner. After the break City added a second courtesy of another Vieira header from a corner. City, on both occasions, taking advantage of some sloppy defending.

Carlos Tevez was introduced into the game on the hour mark, which signalled the beginning of the end for County. Tevez added a third after he neatly rounded the ball past the keeper to inch the ball over the line. Close to the end, City ensured it was party time as Tevez neatly received a dinked through ball from Gareth Barry before providing a lofted cross for Dzeko to head into an open goal. Dzeko could have had a second goal in as many minutes but fluffed his chance as he was one-on-one with ‘keeper.

Nevertheless, in stoppage time Micah Richards powerfully half volleyed the ball into the top right hand corner of the net to put the icing on the cake. City take on Aston Villa in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup in Manchester on 2nd March.

County manager Paul Ince stated after the game that the score line did not reflect how well they played throughout the game. He may have a point but the self confessed ‘Guvnor’ was unable to govern his way through this game and Inoculated City felt sorry for him for approximately two seconds.

Next week City take on Aris Salonika in the Europa League Last 32 Second Leg in Manchester and return to Premier League action against Fulham at home, which is sure to be a tense affair with the return of Mark Hughes to Eastlands after his infamous dismissal in December 2009.

Words by Rob Toole