City’s day of glory beckons
MAY 12 — Can anything stop Manchester City? More specifically, can QPR stop Manchester City?
The short answer is: I very much doubt it.
Roberto Mancini’s side are one victory away from securing their first title since 1968. Tomorrow afternoon at the Etihad Stadium, they will surely claim that victory on the final day of the Premier League season as they host relegation threatened QPR.
It makes things more interesting that Rangers have plenty to play for themselves: if they lose and Bolton win at mid-table, holiday-bound Stoke, they will be relegated. So the visiting team will undoubtedly be playing with full commitment — for their own futures rather than to stop City winning the league.
Of course, QPR manager Mark Hughes has a double — or treble — incentive. On top of the fact that "Sparky" is a Manchester United legend who would love to give the Red Devils a fighting chance of retaining the title, Hughes will also be secretly seeking personal revenge after City sacked him rather unceremoniously to appoint Mancini a couple of years ago.
But there’s only so much that Hughes can do. He won’t be on the pitch, and the simple truth is that his players almost certainly won’t be good enough to stop City’s Kompany-Toure-Aguero inspired juggernaut on their own turf.
It will be interesting to see the team that Hughes selects. I believe his team’s best chance of getting anything from the game is being positive and trying to play on the counter-attack as much as possible.
City will dominate possession and, surely, will score at least one goal — they have done so in every single home league game this season, after all. Rangers will therefore have to think about how they can score, rather than just attempting to hang on for a 0-0 draw.
In that context, the biggest threat to City’s title hopes could be one of their favourite sons: Shaun Wright-Phillips. The speedy winger, a former graduate of City’s youth system, is an excellent runner with the ball who could easily expose City’s full-backs if they push too far forward. But Wright-Phillips hasn’t been in Hughes’ starting line-up too much recently, so he may well only be unleashed from the bench if City go ahead.
I think that would be a mistake. If City score the first goal, I just can’t see any outcome than a home win and a blue title; to have any chance, Rangers should be positive, try to prevent City from building momentum and seek to fray the nerves of the expectant crowd. They can only do that by attacking.
Imagine the panic that could set in amongst the City fans and players if QPR score the first goal? That should be their ambition, I feel, rather than packing the defence and hoping to hang on.
Elsewhere in Europe, Real Madrid have already got the La Liga title well and truly sewn up but they are chasing another milestone as they welcome Mallorca to the Bernabeu on the final day of the Spanish season.
Jose Mourinho´s powerhouse side enter the game on 97 points, and thus have the opportunity to finish their season with an unprecedented three-digit haul by beating Europa League-chasing Mallorca.
I’m saying this through gritted teeth (I can’t pretend to hide my Barca bias), but it’s time to give Mourinho’s men some credit for what has been a remarkable season — 97 points, 117 league goals, three players with 20-plus goals… they really have been sensational.
Los Blancos are not the prettiest team to watch and Mourinho does not possess the most appealing personality, but what a formidable outfit they are.
Although the biased side of me enjoyed watching their downfall against Bayern Munich, it really would have been fitting if Madrid had ended the season as European champions, because they have been the continent’s dominant team.
The fact that the all-time La Liga points record is held by Barcelona, who achieved 99 points a couple of years ago, will be an extra incentive to Mourinho and his men as they face Mallorca tomorrow night. Not only have they already set the all-time single-season team goalscoring record, now they have a chance to beat Barca’s record points tally as well.
Madrid, almost certainly, will win. And nearly just as inevitable is the likelihood of seeing the phenomenal Cristiano Ronaldo’s name on the scoresheet once more.
Remarkably, Ronaldo has already scored league goals against 18 La Liga teams this season. The only one missing? Funnily enough, it’s this weekend’s opponents Mallorca: Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon were the scorers when Madrid won 2-1 on the Balearic isle in January. I have a feeling Ronaldo may complete the set tomorrow.
What chances, then, a QPR and Mallorca away win double? I’ll give you any odds you want!
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.