What next for Man City’s midfield, with Barcelona on the horizon?
Given that Premier League rules state that clubs can’t recall players that are on loan at other Premier League clubs, Man City’s hands were tied in relation to bringing back Gareth Barry from Everton for the 1-0 home defeat to Chelsea.
Instead, with Fernandinho and Javi Garcia injured, Jack Rodwell fit enough for the bench but not to start and James Milner not a natural defensive player, the job to anchor the Man City midfield fell on ageing central defender Martin Demichelis.
The 33-year-old Argentine has had to shoulder some of the criticism, as his lack of pace and mobility was exposed by Eden Hazard and co.
Yaya Toure has not escaped either, as he certainly should have been more defensively disciplined alongside an out-of-position Demichelis, as this obviously played its part in the space Chelsea were afforded.
However, it should be noted that Toure only made one less tackle than Demichelis, the same number of clearances and played the most Man City passes, at a greater accuracy than all of his teammates except David Silva.
What Man City were missing was Fernandinho’s mobility to cover ground and ability to make interceptions. Given the headlines afforded to Toure, Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo this season, this defeat may thrust Fernandinho’s contributions more into the limelight.
With Fernandinho also expected to be absent against Barcelona in the Champions League, the question for Manuel Pellegrini now is how he should set the team up against the La Liga giants.
The way they are, Man City are clearly vulnerable against opposition who can break at pace and although Barcelona more than any team have a reputation for slow build-up play, the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Lionel Messi and Pedro have the ability to mimic Chelsea’s successful tactics.
Playing Yaya Toure as a number 10 is a logical option in more of a 4-2-3-1 formation, which would provide extra midfield protection. Barcelona are most easily snuffled if opposition get numbers behind the ball and regularly force the Spanish side wide in search of space.
Man City and Barcelona have identical odds of 8/5 to win the Champions League encounter at the Etihad, although it is Barca that are clear favourites at 1/2 to qualify for the quarter finals.