The Opposition View - Man City
1) Robert Mancini delivered you the Premier League title last season, are you still fully behind him to take you forward, despite your recent Champions League exit?
The Champions League exit was a disappointment without a doubt but tempered by the fact that it was a desperately difficult group. Mancini has delivered three trophies including the Premier League title and some of the best and most exciting football I have witnessed as a City supporter so I'm sticking by him. I especially liked the way he dealt with the media in the title run in last season and when he stood up to Fergie in the derby at the Etihad he went up several notches in my estimation. I believe that he remains the man for the job and can provide the stability that is the key to continued success.
2) Who are the player/s to look out for in your side ahead of Saturday's game?
All eleven of them! Seriously though, if they can turn in the same performance as last week it would have to be Aguero, Tevez, Silva and, if he is fit and on his game, Samir Nasri. Their combination work against Newcastle was the best I`ve seen for a long time. Others to watch out for would include the Blue Lion Heart, Pablo Zabaleta. He has been in outstanding form.
3) As we approach the half way mark in the season, you are six points behind United, would you have taken that before the season started and are you confident you can win it again?
No, absolutely not. Six points behind to probably your main rivals for the title is never a comfortable position to be in but there are a lot of games to play and we reeled them in from further behind with only six games to go last season so there is all to play for. We just have to concentrate on our job, get it done and keep the pressure up. They didn`t cope with it last season and I`m sure we can take them again.
4) What are your strengths and weaknesses as a team that you have noticed over the past couple of games?
Strengths - the resilience within the squad which has emerged is a great characteristic to have in any team`s locker; Joe Hart remains one of the best assets to have around - he has the potential to save us 9-10 points a season; David Silva - on his day he remains one of the best players in the Premier League and he can unlock any defence with his passing skills; the finishing of Aguero and the tireless running of Tevez; the tenacity of Pablo Zabaleta.
Weaknesses - a tendency to over-elaborate at times whilst trying to pick the lock of opposition defense; a reluctance to move the ball forward quicker at times; profligacy in front of goal this season meaning a lower tally in the Goals For column which might come back to bite us; the enigma wrapped up in a puzzle that has been Mario Balotelli - his failure to deliver has been a handicap and restricted Mancini`s options.
5) Who has your best signing of the summer been and why?
Without any doubt it has been Matija Nastasić. At nineteen years of age I think he has made a superb start to his career in the Premier League and clearly I`m not alone as he was voted the Player of the Month for November. Making your club debut in the Bernabéu is some vote of confidence by the manager. Although he`s still learning, his poise, the self-assurance he has shown with the ball at his feet and his overall maturity make me believe that we may have found the long term partner for Vincent Kompany for some time to come. Class act.
6) What position would you like to strengthen in January and any players names that spring to mind?
It may seem strange to say this but we could probably do with some striking options. Balotelli is proving unreliable and Edin Dzeko cannot seem to deliver the same impact he as a substitute when he starts games. On the dream list would clearly be Falcao or Llorente but it`s difficult to attract players in the January window especially if their clubs remain involved I the Champion`s League. But we may not have to given that we have John Guidetti on our books already. He had a cracking season on loan in Holland last year and if he fully recovers from his illness/injury he might be an option.
7) Do you think Mario Balotelli still has a future at Manchester City? What do you think about his recent actions?
Ah, the Mario question! The recent kerfuffle in the media over the fines actually goes back to last season. His behaviour this season has actually been far better and he has shown more maturity since his performances at Euro 2012. He has talent there is no doubt and if he can apply himself to the task at hand and show the same effort and commitment as his Argentinian team mates for example then he will have my support. City fans will support any player that pulls on a Sky Blue shirt and puts the effort in. What all fans hate to see is someone who seems to lack the commitment that we would all give if we were lucky and talented enough to be given the chance to play for the club. I hope he can recognise this and pull his finger out.
8) What Reading player do you rate the most and why?
Kebe is one to watch. He`s bagged a couple of goals for you for midfield this season and can be a threat. Le Fondre has a decent scoring record as well throughout his career (averaging nearly one goal in three games) and will need watching. Then of course is the experience that Jason Roberts offers if he recovers in time for the game.
9) Expected line up for the game?
With the hectic Christmas schedule coming up this makes the crystal ball gazing even more of a challenge. There are a number of injury concerns but I would expect not too many changes from the Newcastle game - Hart, Zabaleta, Kolo Toure, Nastasic, Clichy, Barry, Yaya Toure, Silva, Garcia, Tevez & Aguero maybe. Sinclair might take Garcia`s place though.
10) What's your prediction for the game?
Well, you`ll not be surprised that I`m going to go for a City win but I hope it`s not like the topsy-turvy game you gave United in the league or Arsenal in the Capital One Cup!
3-1 to City.