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Manchester City to add Spanish wingers after Pellegrini’s arrival?

Last season one of the recurring weaknesses of Manchester City’s attack was the lack of width, pace and variety. This was compounded by some errant finishing but often the out of form strikers would have little opportunity to get a few shots on goal. This was because their attacking patterns were too one-dimensional. If they couldn’t rapidly pass their way through the middle of the opposition they were left without a Plan B. Although full backs Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy provided some attacking width they don’t possess the kind of guile or creativity they needed out wide.

Roberto Mancini’s first choice team often featured David Silva and Samir Nasri as the supposed width but they were usually given license to meander infield. Both of them have the natural compulsion to play in behind a striker and occasionally drift wide, rather than being out wide all of the time. With them drifting in, Carlos Tevez drifting back from his forward spot and with Yaya Toure getting forward from midfield, the sight of four or five City players within the width of the penalty box, but just outside, was not uncommon.

With this in mind, they are being strongly linked to Spanish winger Jesus Navas and versatile attacking midfielder Isco, believed to be main targets for expected new manager Manuel Pellegrini. They are logical connections to make, with Isco having emerged as such a desirable prospect under Pellegrini at Malaga and ,Navas a consistent menace for Sevilla who have run in to financial difficulties and may be willing to sell their prised local boy.

Isco

Isco is very much reminiscent of Santi Cazorla of Arsenal, his ex-teammate. Indeed, when Cazorla left last summer, Isco assumed his vacated central position and took on the mantle of the main playmaker for the Malaga side, which despite financial troubles reached the Champions League quarter finals and the top six of La Liga. Isco is two footed, has excellent vision, glides around the field and this season has increased his goal tally to nine, which is pretty similar to Cazorla, and more than possible new team mate David Silva. His main asset, as you would expect from a young Spaniard, is exemplary technique and football intelligence. Like Juan Mata, he has an impish creativity but also has a bustling and direct style, which makes him a dangerous runner with the ball. The question really, is fitting him in at City.

Isco certainly has different tools to what City currently have. His powerful dribbling and improving goal getting give him an edge over Nasri and Silva. He is capable of making things happen without the need of a team-mate’s help; at times City play as if everything needs to click in to gear with everyone for it to work. He wouldn’t offer width, but he would bring much needed directness, inventiveness and pace in possession. Plus, he is on record with his admiration for the Premier League and has worked with the new probable new City boss, so persuading him should be easy enough.

Jesus Navas

Jesus Navas on the other hand, would offer width. He is a bit of an anachronism in Spain because he is more like an old-fashioned winger. He is very fast with the ball at his feet and a very skilful dribbler. He is a creator of chaos and a creator of goals. He won’t score many, none in the league this season, but he will create them. If anything, the English game should suit him more than the Spanish game. The English propensity for wide-open, fast-paced football with big spaces to roam around in should be an ideal environment for him. He is a pure right winger who would stay out wide and provide not only creativity but a constant out ball, an outlet to switch the play to.

The big questions with Navas have never been on the pitch though, it is with the homesickness that has blighted him. The joke in Spain is that he gets homesick in games outside Seville, so how is he going to cope in England? He doesn’t speak the language, and unless he brings his entire family over his adjustment to life in Manchester will be difficult. It might be reason enough for him to turn down such a move, preferring to stay in Spain.

Isco and Jesus Navas would combine to offer Pellegrini the width, pace and variety that they lacked last year. They would bring with them Plans B and C for City and surely supply enough chances for Aguero to find his shooting boots again. City can afford them both, even if the deal gets up towards £50m, but they need to invest time and effort in settling them in, particularly with Navas. If they do, it could be the jolt they need to compete for the league again next year.

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Manchester United without Sir Alex or Wayne Rooney, Chelsea with Jose Mourinho – next season is set to be a cracker

As the 2012/13 Premier League season lurches towards its underwhelming end, the realisation for many a fan is that it left us with precious little memories, compared to other seasons – notably the most sensational ending in the competition’s 21-year history last term.

As Sergio Aguero slammed home the winner that gave Manchester City the Premier League over fierce local rivals Manchester United with the last kick of the game against Queen Park Rangers last season, Martin Tyler screamed: “I swear you will never see anything like this again.”

Tyler’s now iconic sound bite may have had some truth to it, certainly this season at least, he was right.

Sergio Aguero

As the season sleepwalks into its final day, there is only the tedious race for fourth place that is still to play for amongst London trio Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. The champions United won the division as far back at April 22. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side took advantage of a lacklustre competition and they marched to their 13th Premier League title in an efficient, if unspectacular, manner.

Two of the three relegated teams’ fate were sealed a week later when Queens Park Rangers played out a dour 0-0 with Reading before Wigan Athletic joined them on Tuesday following a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal.

Indeed the most exciting events to happen in the league this season were announcements and decisions that will not come into focus until next season.

Happily next season is already shaping up to be mouth-watering, with a whole of changes sweeping throughout the league, giving it a fresh feel for the summer of 2013.

To begin with, four of the top six teams this season will be starting the 2013/14 campaign with new managers at the helm.

Manchester United will be without Alex Ferguson for the first time in 26 years, with his replacement David Moyes leaving Everton, where he served for over a decade himself.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Ferguson’s absence from English football is a concept millions of fans around the country have never known and Moyes’ adaptation to the country’s biggest club will be the most fascinating plot next season.

Everton chairman Bill Kenwright admitted that he will not be hasty in appointing Moyes’ successor, with the most reliable reports linking the Blues with Wigan’s Roberto Martinez, Porto coach Vitor Pereira and Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup.

Rafael Benitez will depart Chelsea, with Jose Mourinho seemingly set for a second stint at Stamford Bridge. The return of the ‘Special One’ is enough to excite every Chelsea fan and most neutrals. Love him or loathe him, Mourinho is pure box office and his return to England is sure to stir up feuds, drama and entertainment.

Man City are looking for a new manager with Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini touted as the favourite to take over from the axed Roberto Mancini. Incidentally, the Italian was given his P45 just 366 days after he ended his side’s 44-year wait for a league title in the top division.

Pellegrini’s presence in English football would provide another interesting sub-plot to next season’s 38 act drama. The Chilean has won widespread plaudits for his work with the Andalusians this season, after guiding them to a Champions League quarter-final in their first season in the competition, despite working against a backdrop of financial meltdown at the club.

Away from the dug-out, the division will be without two players who will have played 1456 top-flight games between them by Sunday evening. Jamie Carragher will retire from Liverpool after 16 years of sterling service for the Reds, while Paul Scholes looks set to make the last of 718 appearances for United when they play West Bromwich Albion.

Between them they have won five FA Cups, three Champions Leagues, five League Cups, a UEFA Cup, a Super Cup and two World Club Championships. Scholes leaves United with 11 Premier Leagues and both players say goodbye to the game as archetypal one-club legends for their respective teams.

Wayne Rooney’s future is also subject to speculation with Ferguson admitting that the England international had asked for a transfer request a few weeks back. Rooney has been linked with moves abroad to Paris Saint-Germain amongst others, but there have also been reports suggesting that the former Everton forward could move to Chelsea.

Wayne Rooney

A move to Stamford Bridge would be another incredible development in United’s recent evolution, and perhaps it may seem incomprehensible that Rooney could turn out for the Blues next season. However, stranger things have happened in football, and Man Utd’s decision-makers have never been shy of selling a star player when they think his talent may be on the wane.

Next season will also have the fixture that pits Cardiff City against Swansea City, a game which will only add more spice to a division that already boasts the Merseyside, Manchester, north London and Tyne-Wear derbies.

Equate in all this with the fact that the transfer window is not yet even open and you get the feeling that next season could be one of the most intriguing all of time.

Premier League preview: A big weekend for Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool

This weekend features three massive games in the race for the Champions League places as the season enters its final few weeks.

Fulham v Arsenal

Arsenal’s late season charge to make the top four takes them to Craven Cottage. After a midweek draw against Everton, the Gunners will feel they need three points from this away trip before Manchester United come to the Emirates next weekend.

Santi Cazorla

After their surprise away win at Spurs a few weeks ago guaranteed their Premiership status for another season, Fulham’s season is drifting towards its conclusion with no win in their last three games, which included a crushing home defeat to local rivals Chelsea in midweek. Arsenal’s greater desire and need to win should be enough to see them to a comfortable three points at the Cottage.

Tottenham v Manchester City

A huge game at White Hart Lane as Spurs host the current champions. Spurs have been feeling the pressure once again late in the season with their last two home games ending in defeat to Fulham and a draw with Everton, whilst also crashing out of the Europa League to Basel. This is a big opportunity for them to get themselves back in a prime position for the top four against a Manchester City side who looked jaded in their 1-0 home win over Wigan in midweek.

Gareth Bale

The crowd will certainly be up for this game as well and with the likely return of Gareth Bale, Spurs will fancy their chances of getting a positive result out of this game. City know that they are not going to catch Manchester United and that they have second place pretty much sown up. For them all the focus is now on the FA Cup final and they may make a few changes after playing three games in a week. Spurs know a win is vital as they still have tough away games to come against Chelsea and two teams who are battling for survival in Stoke and Wigan.

Liverpool v Chelsea

Rafael Benitez returns to Anfield for the first time as an opposing manager with his Chelsea side. The Spaniard is sure to get a terrific reception from the home supporters and it will be interesting to see how it affects the Chelsea team. When Gerard Houllier returned with his Aston Villa team a couple of years ago and got an amazing reception Liverpool cruised to a 3-0 victory. This Chelsea team though are a lot more experienced than that Villa side and you would expect them to be able to cope with what is sure to be a passionate atmosphere.

Rafa Benitez

On the pitch Liverpool have won four of their last five meetings in the league against Chelsea and they drew the other. Liverpool have once again saved most of their best performances for games against the bigger clubs this season, even though this may not be borne out by results. Benitez continues to rotate his squad well to cope with their demanding fixture list and their 3-0 away win at Fulham in midweek was certainly impressive, whilst they were unfortunate not to take Manchester City to extra time in last Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final. Liverpool’s recent record against the Blues may well swing this game in their favour and Daniel Sturridge may well be out to prove a point against the club who he feels never gave him a proper chance to make his mark in his time there.

By Chris Newman

Manchester City starting to regret selling Mario Balotelli?

Mario Balotelli has been in scintillating form since swapping Manchester City for AC Milan; the temperamental forward has netted seven times in six games for the Rossoneri to date. Balotelli continued his hot streak of form with a wonder strike for Italy against Brazil.

Given the form Balotelli has shown of late and City’s supposed search for a new striker in the summer, Roberto Mancini may well be regretting parting company with his troubled, but talented attacker.

Manchester City need fresh faces but bad decisions in the past make them difficult to get

First things first, Manchester City are not in crisis. There are 18 other Premier League clubs who would love to be in City’s position. For a club that is putting up their first title defence in 45 years to be in second place and in an FA Cup semi-final is very good going. The problem is, expectations of the club have risen exponentially with their status as the most cash rich club in England. Good early season form led us to believe that they would be able to strongly compete with Manchester United in the title battle. However, after a limp Champions League showing their league form has suffered. So, why is that, and how do they move on from here?

City have lost the exuberant sparkle that saw them score 93 goals last season including six at Old Trafford and five at White Hart Lane. They have been grinding out results, but without the extra oomph that they had last year they haven’t been able to keep pace with United. The main reason for this is the lack of flair in the team and the absence of form of the flair that they do possess.

Samir Nasri

David Silva, their impish creator in chief, has been playing football solidly for six years and it is starting to show. He still looks elegant and stylish but he is missing the sharpness and zing of last season. It has bubbled up at times; it’s just the consistency that is lacking. Sergio Aguero hasn’t looked fully fit since his opening day injury. Maybe he was rushed back, maybe he is just a bit hesitant but like Silva he has lost his X-factor. He has looked amazing at times but again, the lack of consistency is frustrating. He is the complete package as a forward, the best in the league in full flight, but this season he hasn’t reached those levels enough. Similarly Carlos Tevez has flickered and started the season in superb form, but hasn’t brought it to every game. Samir Nasri has looked disinterested; perhaps as Roberto Mancini himself alluded to, he has taken his foot off the pedal after wining the league last year. This foursome helped City to play free-flowing attacking stuff last year but for various reasons they haven’t clicked this year.

The issue with this is that beyond the famous four the creative cupboard is bare. Mancini doesn’t have another option to bring on, so when he substitutes one of them the team’s flair quotient drops every time. James Milner, Edin Dzeko and Gareth Barry are good workers but don’t unlock defences. City were beaten to the punch in the summer on Eden Hazard and Robin van Persie, both of whom would have offered Mancini extra creativity and goal threat. They also would have brought hunger and desire to win their first Premier League title. Mancini was openly critical of the club’s transfer activity, and rightly so.

He was delivered Jack Rodwell, an injury prone grinding midfielder, Javi Garcia, another grinding midfielder and the much-maligned Scott Sinclair, a pure winger that doesn’t fit City’s system. Mancini had already shown he didn’t use wingers, which is why they sold Adam Johnson. So they sign an inferior version? They already had Yaya Toure, Milner and Barry and at that point Nigel de Jong, as worker midfielders. So they two inferior versions? You see the issue?

Jack Rodwell

The lack of clarity and apparent lack of planning was a surprise considering City seemed to have shed themselves of the money-wasting tag with the buys of Aguero, Silva and Yaya, who formed the core of the championship side. But they’ve had these issues before. The likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robinho and Roque Santa Cruz were bought for huge sums then sold at a steep loss to get them out of the building. Joleon Lescott, Milner and Dzeko have been good players for the club but cost just under £90m combined. That £90m would have got them Hazard, van Persie and Thiago Silva.

City can afford to spend that kind of money and it not to come off. Or at least, they could before they got big. They had to pay a premium to get players to come to them in their rush to the top. Now that they are, they have to deal with the impending Financial Fair Play regulations to compete in their new Holy Grail, the Champions League. The bad deals of the past hang around like a bad smell. They show up not just as huge losses but in huge contracts and leave a stain on their FFP sheet.

What this means is that the club has a small squad of very highly paid players. For a lot of this season they’ve had young players that they wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the first team filling up the bench. Having to dump the signings they wasted so much money on means they haven’t built any squad depth. They are perpetually chasing their tails, replacing what they sell rather than adding to the squad.

This summer is an important one for Manchester City. They’ve got an immensely talented team, and a manager who has shown he can win consistently, but they need to find a way to get him more depth and more attacking flair if they are to get back to winning the league. The problem is, they have hamstrung themselves with some poor decision making and prioritising in their rush to the top. If they re-find their transfer coherence, and there is no reason that they shouldn’t considering they built a league winner on the market, then they have got the financial resource to get back to winning the league.

You can read more by Max at the thefootballspace.com

Manchester City cannot afford to lose Yaya Toure

Things are not currently looking too bright for Manchester City. After winning the Premier League title in momentous last-day fashion last term, a limp and inconsistent campaign has blighted the club in 2012/13. With a gap of 15 points between the Etihad Stadium outfit and league leaders Manchester United with only nine games to play, it appears that it will be when, not if, the title returns to Old Trafford.

Yaya Toure

Roberto Mancini’s position may well be questioned in the summer after a dud Champions League campaign also, but one matter needs to be addressed with more urgency. With contract negotiations ongoing, Yaya Toure’s agent, Dimitri Seluk, has stated that the Ivory Coast international midfielder may well look to leave the soon-to-be disposed Premier League champions if a new deal is not agreed on in the near future.

“If he signs a contract in the next three or four days, OK. If not, we will not wait any longer and will start negotiations with different clubs.

“Today is Tuesday, so it means by Saturday. We will say ‘Thank you. OK, Yaya will leave in May.’

“I do not feel he will stay at City. This is not about money. He wants to leave because of many reasons.”

Alarm bells must be going off in the ears of City fans, and the club itself. Toure, despite being out of action whilst away on African Nations Cup duty, remains one of the club’s main assets; a player who drives them forward relentlessly.

The African midfielder played a huge part in City’s Premier League win last term, and when on form this time round has been equally as scintillating. His control on the ball, influence across the park and endless work-rate means that he can be the difference between victory and defeat.

The way that things stand, if Toure was to leave it would be a massive blow for City. Replacing a player of his calibre would be very difficult, even with their endless supply of investment. Despite a disappointing campaign, City would be well advised to placate and please arguably their best player before he is hounded by inevitable suitors across Europe.

Five players Manchester City should sign this summer

Under Roberto Mancini Manchester City have signed players at the peak of their powers. They have not been scared to pay big money and they are working on a timeline which doesn’t seem to afford them time to develop younger players. City have given him the likes of Matija Nastasic, Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell recently but Mancini has tended to favour his more experienced players. With this in mind, I will only suggest the finished articles for them to look at.

Leighton Baines – Everton

Leighton Baines

Scout Report A roving and buccaneering left-back, Baines is one of the most consistent players in the Premier League. He rarely misses any game time and can take matches over from his position, which is a rare talent for a defender. His crossing is amongst the best in the league and he is defensively secure.

Where does he fit? City could buy him, plug him in and leave him there for every game. That is fundamentally what they need at left-back. Aleksandar Kolarov can’t defend and Gael Clichy has real problems staying fit. Signing Baines would fix that in an instant. If Mancini wanted to play wing-backs Baines would be more than comfortable playing there too. He would also add some much need width to City’s play, which can sometimes get narrow and slow. If they move it out to him he will sling a cross in quickly to be attacked. He makes too much sense for how infrequently he is linked to them

How much? Probably not too much given Everton’s financial limitations. Something in the £15m region would probably suffice.

Daniele De Rossi – Roma

Daniele de Rossi

Scout Report The complete midfielder, De Rossi brings an infectious determination to win and unwillingness to accept defeat. He intercepts the ball, makes tackles and scores goals. He is truly the all-around package.

Where does he fit? De Rossi would be an enormous upgrade on the incumbents Gareth Barry and Javi Garcia alongside Yaya Toure. Mancini likes a team of men, of winners, and this is where De Rossi would fit. You wouldn’t see City overwhelmed under pressure as they have been at times this season. He would grab games by the scruff of the neck and shake up those around him. He also has the tactical acumen to move back in to a three-man defence should that system be deployed further.

How much? De Rossi is one of the premier midfielders in the world so would not come cheap. City would have to part with around £30m but they’ve made bigger deals than that in the past.

Mario Gomez – Bayern Munich

Mario Gomez

Scout Report The arch penalty box poacher, Gomez has an incredible goal scoring record throughout his career. A big, strong, physical target man, Gomez spends his game on the last line of the defence and in the box sniffing out opportunities.

Where does he fit? City could do with a striker who doesn’t fancy himself as a footballer. Yes Gomez has his limitations in terms of contribution to open play but City don’t need everyone to do that, they need a big lump who will put the ball in the net with the likes of Silva, Aguero, Nasri, Tevez and Yaya feeding an endless supply line of chances. City’s biggest problem this year has been chance-taking so they could just stick Gomez in and leave him to snaffle them up.

How much? It’s almost impossible to imagine Gomez being part of Pep Guardiola’s plan for Bayern next year so he could be gettable. Surely a bid of around £20m would get this done.

Benat Extebarria – Real Betis

Benat

Scout Report Benat is attracting huge buzz in Spain. He is the conductor of the Betis midfield that has led the team up to a surprise sixth place in La Liga this season. If it wasn’t for Xavi, Benat could very well be strutting his stuff in the Spain midfield, such has been his impact. Benat can operate in a deep playmaking role or buzzing around an opposition box, threading intricate passes or dictating tempo.

Where does he fit? City don’t have anyone like him. They don’t have a central midfielder who can take on the mantle of setting the tempo when in possession. Silva likes to operate further forward or wider and possession utilisation isn’t Yaya’s strong suit. Mancini tried to get his ilk with a brief experimentation with Claudio Pizarro last season so he is clearly open to the idea.

How much? Betis wouldn’t be in a position to turn down £10m.

Dede – Vasco de Gama

Dede

Scout Report Dede is a 24-year-old  central defender with a crunching tackle who is aerially dominant. He also has an ability to carry the ball forward from defence and play penetrating passes. He is quick enough and incredibly strong. Regarded as the best defender in Brazil locally.

Where does he fit? The spot next to Kompany has been a revolving door this year. The solidity of last year has gone and they defended poorly in Europe particularly. Dede can be purchased and if Mancini resists the urge to tinker, left to settle in next to Kompany. The Belgian is the ideal defender to come in next to, which would give Dede a chance to adapt and thrive. His physique is ideal for England and for City who like big defenders.

How much? Buying from Brazil isn’t as easy as it used to be so this would surely cost £12m plus.

Manchester United out of the Champions League – expect a red response

United to bite back?

Manchester United exited the UEFA Champions League last night amid a storm of controversy, after a truly dramatic encounter with Spanish giants Real Madrid. The fixture, which saw the return of former Old Trafford idol Cristiano Ronaldo and another top-of-the-bill tactical duel between Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, certainly lived up the pre-match expectations.

What nobody saw coming though, was the actions of referee Cuneyt Cakir. The Turkish official brandished a straight red card for United’s Nani after the winger caught Alvaro Arbeloa with an accidental high boot. The impact of the decision on the home side was brutally clear by the end of the 90 minutes, but as the analysis of the incident spins around Europe, NMO now takes a look at what the turn of events means for the English domestic season.

Fans of Manchester City were likely to have watched on chuckling as United’s European dream came crashing down in shower of perceived injustice. The more perceptive among them however, will know that when that red card came out of Cakir’s pocket it was not just a watershed in the game but also a beacon, signalling the end for City’s aspirations of defending their league title.

Sir Alex Ferguson

While United are galloping 12 points clear at the Premiership’s summit. Roberto Mancini will surely have been clinging to the faint hope that his arch rivals’ European endeavours would prove a distraction, causing them to drop a few points and allow his own side to rein them in.

With the possibility of two-leg quarter and semi-finals now eradicated, the Old Trafford side will be able to fully focus on regaining the crown that was so dramatically snatched from them within the final minutes of last season. Expect Ferguson to field strong sides now in all of United’s league fixtures until the title is claimed, which could well be before the end of April. The top two of course, still must meet for a second time this season, with City scheduled to make the trip across town on the April 8. Had United progressed to the quarter-finals this crucial six pointer would have fallen bang in the middle of their two European ties. This would surely have been an advantage, which has just been removed from Mancini’s list of reasons to be cheerful.

Looking for more immediate potential fallout we should search no further than Old Trafford this coming Sunday. Chelsea are the visitors in an FA cup tie which represents the Blues’ last realistic hope of silverware this season. It is a all too well known a fact that when Ferguson’s United are knocked down they get back up again and the backlash for whichever side happens to be in front of them is usually severe. As the Madrid players celebrated, Ferguson was incandescent with rage. United players lost their cool and wrongly vented their frustrations with Mr Cakir. If Rafa Benitez was looking on he would be right to be concerned as before him was the perfect example of the old cliche; a wounded animal.

That animal will take to the field against Chelsea on Sunday and it would be foolish to think that United players will be wallowing in self-pity. Fergie is likely to freshen his side. Rooney will surely return and we will see a line-up with a simple brief: attack with ferocious intensity.

The impact of United focusing solely on their domestic challenges is likely to spread down the table. Arsenal, Chelsea and Aston Villa all have league fixtures that would have coincided with United’s Champions League schedule if they had continued in the competition. Each of those clubs must surely now feel the chances of much needed points in those games has just diminished slightly.

It is easy of course to look at the what ifs but we can briefly consider this United side and whether or not they were strong enough to compete on three fronts and repeat the treble success of 1999. The answer, ultimately, is of course no but had the Cuneyt Cakir shown yellow rather than red, the class of 2013 would most likely still be on course to scale similar heights.

The midfield quartet of Giggs, Scholes, Keane and Beckham probably sets the 99 side apart from the current crop but the United of today has more strength in depth, a formidable lead in the league and with Barcelona’s progress uncertain, had Fergie’s charges gone through, they would be looking like the team to avoid. Unfortunately for those still to play them in the league this season, avoidance is not an option.

Manchester City surely don’t need Daniele De Rossi?

Manchester City have been linked with a move for Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi today once more, as the transfer rumours start extra early ahead of the January window. The Italy international has been a long-term target for Roberto Mancini, who clearly rates his countryman as a player that could have a positive impact at the Etihad Stadium. However, given the fact that City look overloaded in the centre of midfield, surely this is paper talk and does not have much substance?

There is no doubt that given the option in the summer, Mancini would have opted for De Rossi over all other transfer targets in that position. However, the passionate Rome-born battler opted to stay with his childhood club and penned a new five-year deal, as predicted in The Bookies Offers Blog. With new coach Zdenek Zeman not the flavour of the month with the talismanic midfielder, rumblings of a spat between the pair have been mooted in the Italian press, with De Rossi also being speculated as unhappy at the Stadio Olimpico.

Even if this is the case, City would be best advised at giving De Rossi a miss. With Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia purchased in the summer to complement existing engine room generals James Milner, Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure, it is safe to say the Premier League champions are covered in the centre of the park. A big-money, high wage move for 29-year-old Rossi would surely represent a tactic going against the club’s supposed new frugality in the transfer market with Financial Fairplay looming ominously, but also the case remains: do they even need him?

Netherlands international Nigel De Jong was sold in the summer due to the new players’ arrival, and even now when all players are fit Mancini has a selection dilemma on his hands. Yes De Rossi is experienced, talented and has the versatility to play in midfield or at centre-half, but City would surely be making a grave error and spending excess money unnecessarily by revisiting their quest to bring him to England.

Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund: A must win for Mancini’s men?

Manchester City are back in Champions League action tonight against Borussia Dortmund, with Roberto Mancini’s men looking to open their European account for the season. However, after a disappointing group stage elimination last term and an opening day loss against Real Madrid this time round, pressure is starting to mount on the Etihad Stadium side.

Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal provided the `group of death’ opponents in 2011-12, but the Premier League champions have arguably been handed an even more daunting task this time round. Real Madrid, Dortmund and Ajax stand in the way of the Citizens in their quest to reach the knockout stages, in what is certainly the pool of the highest pedigree in this season’s competition.

The 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu was unfortunate in the fact that the English side conceded two late goals after dealing with wave after wave of Los Blancos attack for the majority of the game. Mancini and his men will be glad to have got the toughest game of the pool out of the way, and will now know that the clashes with Dortmund, both home and away, could well be the difference between qualification and elimination.

Last term Bayern ran away with the pool, and Madrid may well do the same this year. Villarreal were the whipping boys after their dramatic dip in form, and one thinks that Ajax will be the team that the other three look to get points from, both at home and in Holland. As such, Dortmund will provide a similar test to the Napoli side that ultimately cost City a place in the last 16 last term, after a draw in England and defeat in San Paolo.

Dortmund may not have started this term as impressively as they would have liked, with a seven-point gap between Jurgen Klopp’s men and Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga already after six games. However, the Signal Iduna Park side have the players to pose a real threat to City, and have a point to prove also; they have been German champions for the last two seasons, and after domestic glory making the knockout stages in Europe is the next logical progression.

A 5-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach in their last outing showcased Dortmund’s calibre, and with the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and a handful of others, the visitors are capable and talented opponents for City.

City’s form on the road this term has been questioned, but at fortress Etihad they have largely continued to win matches. The draw against Napoli last season in England proved costly; City will look to get all three points tonight to set them up for potential qualification this time round.

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