Note: I've decided to start writing under my real name, Clay Landon. Pleased to meet you. The moniker Sufferingbruin is now available.
THOUGHT THE FIRST: We Made History
Look at this:
2012: Group Stage
2013: Group Stage
2014: Round of 16
2015: Round of 16
2016: Final 8
That's something to be proud of. Manchester City has never gone this far in Europe's most important tournament. Since they entered European competition, the criticisms City fans endured domestically carried over to the continent: the club was only about money, they were brimming with mercenaries, they didn't have heart and they didn't have history. The criticism was as annoying as it was nonsensical. And after today, that criticism is a bit more silent and it sounds beautiful. I know a few longtime Man City fans. They tell me there were years where just avoiding relegation, maybe finishing in the top ten, maybe winning a derby... that was considered a good year. Things are different now. City is in the final 8 and that is terrific good news.
Now the bad news.
THOUGHT THE SECOND: Pellegrini's Poor Decision
My predicted starting lineup and Pellegrini's had at least one thing in common: we both didn't see anything wrong with starting Vincent Kompany. I thought it was a good idea because it would allow the captain to build on his fantastic performance against Norwich. I thought it was a good idea because against Kiev, defense was clearly the order of the day, even with a commanding aggregate lead.
What I did not know--and frankly should've known--was that Kompany was starting his 6th game in 20 days. Take another look at that sentence. He played every minute of each of the five games previous, averaging a full 90 minutes and change, not including the two extra time periods in the Cup Final vs. Liverpool.
Look, it's not how many minutes you play that lead to injury. It's how many minutes you play when tired. Had I known that, over the last five games, Vincent Kompany was one of only two players to play every minute, there is no way I would've started him because he's already been hurt twice this season--both times seriously. Oh, by the way, the other guy to play every minute of the previous five games? Nicolas Otamendi.
If ever there was a game to use the bench, this game was it. At home, with the 3-1 lead, go ahead and start Mangala, Demichelis, Kolarov, etc. Use the bench. Use Iheanacho. If things get out of hand, put on the big guns any time you want. Because of Pellegrini's decision, we're heading into our most important stretch of the season without our defensive leader. Try to avoid thinking how we played without him. Try to hope one of the other guys picks up his game substantially. What else is there?
THOUGHT THE THIRD: Player Ratings
Keeping these short because work beckons in the morning.
9 or above: Man of the Match (sometimes an 8.5 gets MOTM)
8 or above: A winning effort
7 or above: Did the job.
6 or above: Could've been better.
5 or below: Better off on the bench/Reason why we lost
GK—Joe Hart (8): Went from a solid 7.5 to an 8 with some maniacally good saves in the closing seconds. The tie was out of reach, of course but give the man some credit. Great saves.
LB—Gael Clichy (8.5): One of the best games I’ve seen from a defender in a City shirt this year. What Kompany was against Norwich last week? That’s what Clichy was this week.
CB—Nicolas Otamendi (NR): As of 9:49pm PST, no news.
CB—Vincent Kompany (NR): Pellegrini says he’ll be out at least a month; probably to the end of April. Swell.
RB—Pablo Zabaleta (7.5): Is this low? I’ve only seen the match once and I know Clichy did well but it sure seemed like Pablo as our second best defender on the back line.
CM—Fernando (7.5): Another very solid effort in the middle of the pitch. He the principal back line defender and we needed him more than once. He came through quite nicely.
CM—Fernandinho (7): See Zabaleta comment above. I told a friend of mine where I had him rated and he asked me what match I was watching.
CM—Yaya Toure (8.5 MOTM): I was a little surprised Yaya spent so much time forward. He was essentially a second striker when City were passing the ball around in the attacking third; Yaya setting up at the top of the box, muscling against the Kiev defenders. He had several runs where he looked like the Yaya of previous years. It’s just a shame his efforts didn’t result in a goal.
LM—David Silva (8): Who, for the most part, stayed on the left side. I am very, very, very grateful he didn’t take any of the targeted tackles I’ve come to expect. You know the ones—the "oh-excuse-me" slides into the left foot and of course the tackler didn’t mean to do it. He played quite well yesterday.
RM—Jesus Navas (6.5): A solid second half saved a horrific first half. Should probably get a 7 because he came back strong which is to his credit but my notes next to his name are filled with curse words and they just can’t be ignored.
ST—Sergio Aguero (7.5): This is the first match I’ve ever seen where Kun was essentially playing to not get hurt. I still say he’s the best striker in the league when he’s healthy. And I still say he shouldn’t have played today.
Eliaquim Mangala (5.5): I'm not sure this guy can play. I'm not saying I'm not sure he can play well. I'm saying I'm not sure he can play, period. Those might be the scariest sentences I've ever typed.
Martin Demichelis (6.0): Speed was never his strength. He's 35 now and I think he's faster than Per Mertesacker but I can't be sure.
Raheem Sterling (7.0): Limited but professional work. I remain very high on Sterling.
THOUGHT THE FOURTH: Anoteher Scary Sentence
This week, our sentence is a question: without Kompany, can we hold on to the top four? I'm not so sure.
THOUGHT THE FIFTH: Poll!
You know what to do.