City's Etihad form spells trouble for Swansea

Posted by David Mooney

A skiing holiday in the Bahamas, severe dental surgery, sitting through Series One of "Mrs. Brown’s Boys", being stranded in the middle of a desert, never again being unable to eat chocolate . . . .All of these must seem like more appealing options for the Swansea players ahead of their visit to The Etihad on Sunday.

Manchester City averaged five goals in the last four home league games. The Blues have netted 13 times in the last two matches. Visitors to the Etihad have managed to beat the goalkeeper just twice in the league this season. Since Manuel Pellegrini took charge, City have found the net every 20 minutes when playing at home.

All in all, it’s looking like this weekend should be a writeoff for Swansea.

-Kompany returns to fitness
Video: Pellegrini stresses performance over goals

The key word, though, is ‘should’. It’s certainly not going to be an easy game for the Blues. Swansea, sitting in 10th place in the Premier League, have been fairly impressive at times this season, even if the results haven’t followed suit. With just one win in their last seven matches in all competitions, Michael Laudrup’s side will be looking to bounce back -- and quickly.

The Swans’ style of play, though, could play right into City’s hands. They are the only team this season to have completed more passes than Pellegrini’s side and an open game is one the Chilean will be relishing. The Blues have struggled to break down packed defences -- albeit more so away from home -- and if the Welsh team try to play possession football, it could be another game of "how many Fantasy League points will Sergio Aguero bag this weekend?"

Or -- if the Swans pick their form up -- it could also be the best game City have had at home this season, with so far only Hull managing to avoid conceding three or more.

If the hosts are to win, key to victory will, once again, be their Argentine frontman. He’s currently the league’s leading scorer and has had the most shots on target of any player this season, not to mention how quickly he’s formed a deadly partnership with Alvaro Negredo. The question was posed recently as to who was the best front pair in England -- Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez or Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney? The answer is neither of them.

Matija Nastasic has been ruled out with a calf problem, having limped out of the drubbing of Tottenham at half-time, while Stefan Jovetic and David Silva will both again miss out through injury. There is a chance captain Vincent Kompany will be back up to 100 percent; however, having had so many fitness issues in recent months, it’s highly unlikely that he will feature, despite having trained with the first team this week.

The biggest selection question will, once again, be between the sticks: Costel Pantilimon is yet to put a foot wrong in his appearances so far this season, but several good saves by Joe Hart in the Champions League in midweek will be playing on the manager’s mind.

While the England international did impress with his shot-stopping, his distribution still remained sketchy, as he thrice booted it out of play when looking for Aleksandar Kolarov from goal kicks. And the manager may want to make sure the message is loud and clear to his No. 1 -- and one decent performance back in net doesn’t necessarily earn a recall.

In his pre-match press conference on Friday, Pellegrini knew it would be a hot topic -- answering about Hart before any of the journalists had even posed a question, saying he thought he “played very well in the last game,” before teasing Sunday’s game with: “We’ll see who’s playing.”

With the exception of the goalkeeper, the City team pretty much picks itself. Pellegrini seems less inclined to rotate his team than his predecessor in the Etihad’s home dugout, but that’s to the benefit of players’ consistency -- Samir Nasri is another on the list who has hit his best form in a blue shirt.

Sunday’s match will be a battle of the possession teams. City fans should be confident, but there shouldn’t be complacency. Swansea will have a few curveballs in the locker.

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