Free-scoring Manchester City had failed to score in their last two outings. The last time they went three consecutive games without finding the net was six years ago. However, normal service resumed here despite the absence of two of their protagonists in Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo (who came on a second-half substitute). The performance of Edin Dzeko and Stefan Jovetic will have given the City fans and Manuel Pellegrini plenty of heart after question marks were raised about their ability to find the net following blanks against Chelsea and Norwich. Jovetic, in particular, showed great potency to clinically sweep the hosts into an early but deserved lead, almost resembling the sidelined Aguero in demeanor and composure. Furthermore, Dzeko’s ability to hold the ball up and run in behind the defence was a good sign ahead of the visit of Barcelona this week, with City likely to find themselves without the ball for long periods against the Spanish giants. Samir Nasri’s return from injury was an additional bonus from a game that City dominated from the outset. The former Arsenal playmaker linked with David Silva shortly after his arrival to secure the victory and a passage through to the next round. It was like clockwork. Having said that, Pellegrini and the majority of City fans would prefer a striking duo of Negredo and Aguero for the tie against Barca but the alternatives aren’t too shabby either.
It’s that time of the season when Jose Mourinho’s media conferences are largely consumed by mind games and talk of the opposition and their managers. However, on this evidence, the Chelsea boss should concentrate more on inspiring his players rather than entertaining the press corps of stirring his counterparts. A 1-1 draw at the Hawthorns during the week indicated at a slight blip and they simply didn’t show up at the Ethiad. This performance was a shadow of the one that was produced two weeks ago to collect all three points at Eastlands in the Premier League. In attack, they were clueless and non penetrative as well as being completely overrun in the engine room. John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic, for all their defensive prowess, offer very little going in the opposite direction and are ineffective as a central midfield partnership. With Everton their next opponents, there will be no time for the Blues to lick their wounds but with Eden Hazard, Ramires and Willian struggling to find a spark here, one would worry that their momentum is faltering after an excellent run of results. Although this was an extremely disappointing performance and result for the Blues, no damage has been done to their hopes of a fourth Premier League crown. They can now firmly concentrate on consolidating their position at the summit over the next few weeks.
It’s often said that once spring hits, every game is important. That’s certainly the case for City as the prospect of a quadruple remains very much alive. However, the games are coming thick and fast and City will need to utilise their squad efficiently during the next few months and ensure there is no let-up in performance. Having safely secured a place in tomorrow’s quarter-final draw, attention now turns to the Champions League, and their first ever knock-out clash. The big games are at every juncture, with the Capital One Cup Final around the corner, in between the first-leg and a trip to the Nou Camp. In this form, however, it would be no surprise to see Vincent Kompany lift all four pieces of silverware come May. There is no sign of them relenting.
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