Back to domestic duties

Posted by Simon Curtis

Franck Fife/AFP/Getty ImagesMan City's Samir Nasri should be rested and ready for Tottenham after not seeing the field on Tuesday for France.

Fabio Capello's first England squad as national manager back in February 2008 only included one Manchester City player, the youthful Micah Richards, but by the time the Italian took the side to the Swiss city of Basel in 2010 for a qualifying tie for Euro 2012, there were no fewer than six City players involved.

The squad for that particular match looked like this: Joe Hart (City), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Joleon Lescott (City), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Gareth Barry, James Milner (both City), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United). Jermain Defoe (Spurs). Subs: Darren Bent (Sunderland), Adam Johnson, Shaun Wright-Phillips (both City).

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This served at the time as a kind of acknowledgement that City had arrived at the edge of the territory usually patrolled by the big guns of English football. It is not often, after all, that one club gets to provide an England team with over half its personnel. Only four other sides had managed it in fact: Liverpool on two separate occasions in 1980 and 2001, Arsenal in 1934 and Manchester United, also in 2001.

Indeed, before that, City had not been a prolific supplier of players to the national team for nigh on thirty years, when the likes of Joe Corrigan, Mike Doyle, Dave Watson, Dennis Tueart, Peter Barnes and Joe Royle all made it into the squad on a reasonably regular basis. Things have come full circle now and England's latest foray into match action in the tame defeats to Chile last Friday and now Germany involved only recalled goalkeeper Joe Hart and the unused substitute James Milner.

This is not so much a reflection of any waning of City's new-found power, more acknowledgement of the incredible breadth of nationalities represented in the Blues' squad these days. Even when comparing it with 2008, one sees a significant difference. Whenever it comes to an international break in 2013, City's squad is dispersed to all four sides of the planet.

Manuel Pellegrini will be pleased, however, to see that a variety of his men were either not used or only employed sparingly during these crucial last qualifying games. Neither Samir Nasri nor Gael Clichy managed to feature in France's stirring fightback to qualify for Brazil 2014, as they turned around a two-goal deficit to book their flight West next summer. Reserve keeper Costel Pantilimon also sat out his country's departure from the tournament at the hands of Greece, as did Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas for Spain. While Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Edin Dzeko all featured in the St Louis friendly between Bosnia and Argentina, many of City's players were spared the energy-sapping ordeal of playing again after the weekend's round of fixtures.

Thankfully for all concerned, the long and arduous process of qualification for next summer's World Cup has now run its course. Domestic football can once again take centre stage and City have the mouthwatering prospect of taking on Tottenham in what is traditionally an entertaining and often high-scoring match.
With yet another away hiccup at Sunderland still to be cleared from the memory banks, the fixture list has come up with three consecutive home games to help the Blues get back on their feet.

After Spurs, Viktoria Plzen will visit Manchester in what is now a meaningless Champions League dead rubber that will surely feature some of the Capital One Cup squad on this occasion. Thereafter, Michael Laudrup's Swansea will test themselves against a City side that has two consecutive wins in this fixture since the Welshmen regained top flight status. With home form providing a stark relief to the mishaps on the road, City supporters will be fervently hoping that, by the time the next three fixtures are out of the way, the top of the Premier League table will once again be sliding into view.

Indeed with no more international matches to distract the players' attentions, Pellegrini will be stressing the fact that it is high time to apply full concentration to the task of securing domestic bliss, while international dreams are put to one side until the World Cup draw in December.


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