The Thursday Preview: Manchester City Vs Reading
They are gone now and in their place is a counterfeit Manchester City; ripped asunder from its Moss Side roots and plonked like a spaceship from District 9 on the wintry plains of Eastlands. The only similarity between the old and new is the lack of trophies. Citizens will still argue that in that respect, it’s still the same club, but like Faust, the grip on their own soul is tenuous now. That grotesque duel with Spurs for the “achievement” of finishing in fourth place last Spring illustrates that.
A drawback of our Thursday Preview series is that a club can sometimes be in action between our putting pen to paper and the occasion itself. A gruelling trip to Kiev will presumably have an influence on Sunday’s encounter and Reading may distil hope from the suggestion that Roberto Mancini may “do a Houllier”.
But City’s squad represents a cornucopia of talent and even a weakened eleven will be fearsome. Champions League qualification is by no means a certainty, so the FA Cup remains important – Carlos Tevez in particular can be well nigh unplayable and a doubt over Matt Mills following his early exit from the action at Portman Road on Tuesday will harm the Royals’ chances of repeating their defensive heroics from Goodison.
Reading come into the game in good form – tanning Middlesbrough’s hide in a five star display at the weekend and then effortlessly cruising to victory at Ipswich. Shane Long continues his astonishing scoring streak and Mikele Leigertwood has been patrolling the midfield like a minesweeper – he crucially missed early February’s dip in form after being inexplicably docked three matches despite not being sent off at Cardiff.
Tactically, Reading may line up with a 4-4-2 that may in reality be a 4-5-1 but they can be expected to attack as much as City will allow. Two previous cup ties in the north west have finished in draws only for the Mancunians to make hay back in Berkshire – 7-0 in 1968 and 4-0 in 1993 – and I was at Elm Park for the latter as Niall Quinn rose majestically to nod in a Steve Lomas cross. I rather expect a similar outcome this time and feel Reading have a good chance of entering the draw for the semi finals, albeit in either/or mode.