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Portsmouth preview

Whilst a semi-final defeat would be frustrating enough, the manner in which we exited on Wednesday evening will have resulted in a squad of players eager to get back on the pitch and get it out of their systems.

For a choice of opponent, perhaps Portsmouth are exactly what is required. Currently bottom of the league, players not being paid and facing an uncertain future with a winding up order scheduled in February would be bad enough. Added to this though is the fact that they have failed to win in their past fifteen visits to Maine Road/CoMS and face us in the midst of a thirteen game home unbeaten run and a win will see us set new records in that regard and also for scoring in consecutive home games (currently at twenty).

From the limited time I have seen of Portsmouth they have appeared to be a spirited, if somewhat limited side, perhaps galvanised into a united mentality by the off-field troubles but surely that is sustainable only for so long. The more that emerges about their current plight, the more obvious the sheer scale of mis-management at the club appears to have been.

They have re-signed Jamie O'Hara on loan from Tottenham but have uncertainty over both Asimir Begovic and Younes Kaboul and looking through their squad they will face an uphill battle to avoid the drop this season unless they can somehow strengthen over the next few days.

I would be incredibly surprised (and disappointed) if Roberto Mancini did not revert back to a 4-4-2 formation to accomodate Emmanuel Adebayor. If so, the likely candidate to drop out would be Pablo Zabaleta, although he did enough in the second half on Wednesday to suggest he would be a better fit than Javi Garrido at left back. Mancini may also recall Kolo Toure to the starting line-up in place of Dedryck Boyata.

With Wembley plans now put to one side (at least until the next round of the FA Cup anyway), focus resumes on our bid for a top four spot. It is no stretch to say that three points really is a must if we have designs on Champions League qualification and a win is exactly what I am expecting.

As emphatic a victory as this one would be very welcome.

Game notes:
  • City are unbeaten in their last 13 home league matches since a 3-1 defeat by Fulham in April (W10, D3). If they avoid defeat on Sunday it will be their longest unbeaten top-flight run since an 18-match streak ended in September 1981.
  • They have scored in their last 20 league matches at the City of Manchester Stadium. If they score against Portsmouth it will be their longest goal-scoring run since 1958.
  • Portsmouth have won just one of their last six league games (W1, D2, L3).
  • They have lost 10 of their 11 matches against top-half opponents this season - the worst record in the division. The exception was the 2-0 win over Liverpool in December.
  • Pompey have scored 19 league goals this season - only Wolves had managed fewer prior to this weekend's fixtures.
  • They have only earned two points from losing positions this season.