The games keep coming, thick and fast...
Our excellent results in our Champions League group means that tonight’s game against Marseille offers a rare chance to enjoy the match without too much concern.
Of course, we will want to win, but it allows Pep Guardiola the opportunity to rest players ahead of the Manchester derby this weekend – something United did not have the luxury of when they took on Red Bull Salzburg.
Marseille will still harbour hopes of a Europa League spot if they can take third position in Group C, so there is plenty to play for and the French side may need to throw caution to the wind.
If former West Ham star Dmitri Payet is involved, it could be a very entertaining game.
One thing that has been missing from the Champions League nights this season (apart from our own fans), is the colourful away support that Porto, Olympiakos and Marseille would have brought with them.
That’s what makes this competition so special and who knows, by the time the Round of 16 comes around next February, maybe we’ll have fans back inside the Etihad (and hopefully, sooner).
Watching Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea all win their home games at the weekend, you could see their players were lifted even by just having 2,000 allowed in.
It certainly whets the appetite for all Mancunians – blue and red – with an empty Old Trafford a certainty this Saturday.
As previously stated, our time will come, but until it does, we'll have to keep calm, be patient and carry on.
Enjoy our latest digital matchday programme and, enjoy the game.
Pep's pre-match thoughts...
Tonight’s game against Marseille marks the end of our Group C campaign. It’s been so good for us, winning the group with a game to spare and taking 13 points from a possible 15 so far. The first target of any season is always to qualify for the last-16 of the Champions League, and we have done it. I have been so proud of the players and the attitude they have shown.
It is not easy to do what they have done. In the Champions League, you consistently play against sides who are built to win – the mentality they have developed over many years is a winning one. The way we have handled our group has been exceptional and it’s all down to the attitude of my players.
It should never be underestimated what an achievement it is to qualify as one of Europe’s best 16 teams. This Club has now done that eight years in a row, which is fantastic for everyone connected to Manchester City. It’s a significant part of our development right across the organisation.
Tonight’s game remains so important. Yes, we are through already, but we respect this competition and its integrity. Olympiakos and Marseille are still fighting for Europa League qualification, so we will face this match in an extremely professional way.
Marseille are a team I really like to watch. Andre is a top manager, a great person and he sets his teams up to be attacking. My players know all about the threat they pose, and we want to finish this group on a high and take that momentum into the Premier League.
The first game in France was a good spectacle. In the first 15 minutes of the second half, Marseille were superb and gave us so many problems. Our players have not forgotten that, and they know they will have to be at their best tonight to get the result we want.
Our recent results have been good, and I have seen improvements in our performances over the past few weeks, which is normal given the preparations we’ve had this season. My players are looking fitter all the time and I really believe we can do something good this season.
Enjoy the game everyone,
Club Ambassador Mike Summerbee looks ahead to tonight's game..
I thought we played really well against Fulham and won the game comfortably.
We created plenty of chances again and were unlucky not to have won by more, but it’s another three points and another clean sheet, which is a good habit to get into.
The only thing missing - again - was our fans.
I watched Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs over the weekend and even having 2,000 fans inside their grounds made a huge difference – you could see it in the reactions of the players and the noise the crowd made.
It’s what we all want more than anything.
It’s such a shame our supporters can’t attend yet as I’m finding it increasingly hard to watch matches with no fans.
I honestly don’t know how the players do it, coming out to an empty stadium and near silence when a goal is scored.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed it all ends soon and that we can get our fans back in because one of the main lifts we’ve had during this pandemic is football.
It plays such a big part in so many of our lives and it’s kept a lot of people going during these difficult times.
For tonight’s game, we entertain Marseille and I expect Pep Guardiola to give opportunities to some of the players who haven’t played as much this season, as well as one or two of younger stars.
Make no mistake about it, we will be going for the win and try to win well – that’s the only way this team knows and we will want to ensure that we win the group comfortably.
With United at the weekend, resting one or two key players is important, especially as United had a draining trip to Leipzig on Tuesday.
That will be a tough task, believe me but they got a good win at West Ham last weekend and it will be a difficult match.
Whether Old Trafford being quiet will be more of a benefit to us than United, we’ll have to wait and see, but it’s a Manchester derby and I’m sure it will be a very competitive game.
We will have to be at our best because they will want a reaction after the Champions League exit in Germany.
Take care and keep well and see you next week.
HERE’S TO BRIGHT BLUE SKIES …
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Your wellness, our priority
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the season so far
A closer look at tonight's opponents...
Marseille might have struggled in Group C during the group stage phase of the Champions League, but the French side are just four points behind leaders Paris St Germain in Ligue 1 – plus they have two games in hand over the sides above them.
In the 11 games played so far, they have won seven, drawn three and lost just once – a record at odds with their European campaign so far where they have won once and lost four of their opening five games.
They would need to better Olympiakos’ result to take third place and secure a place in the Europa League Round of 32, but they will believe they still have a chance when they arrive at the Etihad.
Their away form in Ligue 1 has been excellent with five wins and one draw out of six matches, conceding just three goals along the way.
With that in mind, it seems odd that Marseille have not made more of an impression in the Champions League.
One thing manager Andre Villas-Boas certainly has instilled in his team is a willingness to scrap for results and, when necessary, show their mettle.
You only have to look at their controversial 1-0 win away to PSG at the start of the season – the ill-tempered match erupted into a brawl near the end and Marseille has six players booked and two sent off.
Bookings have been a familiar feature of Marseille’s season so far – they have picked up 34 yellow cards and three red cards in their 11 Ligue 1 matches so far and also had 12 yellows and two red cards in the Champions League totalling 51 cautions of one kind or another in 16 matches.
In contrast, City have had 27 cautions in 18 matches.
Clearly, in domestic football, the competitive edge is working for Marseille who started their season off with narrow away wins over Brest and PSG, before going down 2-0 to Saint-Etienne.
Three successive 1-1 draws followed against Lille, Metz, and Lyon, but Marseille have been on a superb run of late, winning their last five league matches.
Victories over Bordeaux, Lorient, Strasbourg, Nantes, and Nimes have jettisoned Villas-Boas’ side up the table and they are currently the form side of the French top flight.
In Dimitri Payet, they have a gifted play-maker who is a genuine match-winner – Payet was used sparingly in the first meeting against City, but may be called upon from the start on this occasion.
If Marseille can somehow secure Europa League football as well as continue to challenge for the Ligue 1 title, it could be shaping into a very exciting season for Villas-Boas' team.
There are perhaps more City players who have played for Marseille than you might first think.
Some are obvious, some are surprising… but the following 10 players have all played for both clubs at least once in their career.
Let’s start with George Weah, President of Liberia, no less.
Weah joined City in 2000, but was at Maine Road only briefly, scoring four goals in just nine games before joining Marseille for the rest of the season where he bagged five goals in 20 appearances.
Next was Djamel Belmadi – now boss of the Algerian national team – who played 48 times for Marseille between 1999 and 2003 before joining City on loan for six months, but he made just eight appearances under Kevin Keegan with Ali Benarbia and Eyal Berkovic ahead of him.
David Sommeil did the opposite – joining Marseille on loan while with City.
Sommeil, who scored our first Premier League goal at the City of Manchester Stadium, was a City player from 2002 to 2006, making 55 appearances and scoring four goals.
His loan spell with Marseille was in 2004, making 13 appearances for the Ligue 1 side.
Ironically, one of the players Sommeil had lost his place to – Daniel Van Buyten – joined City on loan from Marseille and was an instant hit with the City fans.
Van Buyten would only make six appearances for City, but was impressive throughout and there was disappointment when a permanent deal couldn’t be struck.
The Belgian went on to play for Bayern Munich, enjoying eight years with the Bavarians and winning the Champions League.
Tyrone Mears played just one game for City in 2001/02, joined Marseille on loan from Derby County in 2008/09, making seven starts.
One of our most popular former Marseille players, Samir Nasri, began his career with the French side and made 166 appearances during a four-year spell, scoring 12 goals.
Nasri moved to City from Arsenal in 2011 and would go on to play 176 times for the Blues, scoring 27 goals as well as winning two Premier League titles.
Joey Barton started life out in City’s youth ranks and played 153 times for the first team, scoring 17 goals between 2002 and 2007.
His loan move from QPR to Marseille was something of a surprise, but he enjoyed a productive spell in 2012/13, making 33 appearances for the French giants.
Karim Rekik’s City career consisted of many loan spells with other clubs and he made just three starts before joining Marseille in 2015 where he made 48 appearances (plus one goal).
Mario Balotelli left many admirers back in Manchester after a three-year stay at the Etihad, helping City win the FA Cup and Premier League, making 80 appearances and scoring 30 goals during a stay that was never dull.
Mario has had a number of clubs since, including Marseille in 2018/19, where he scored eight goals in 15 appearances.
Finally, our only current link between the two clubs is Benjamin Mendy, who spent three seasons with Marseille between 2013 and 2016, making 101 appearances and scoring three goals.
After leaving for one season with Monaco, he signed for City in 2017 and has made 60 appearances to date, scoring one goal to date.
Dangerman: Dmitri Payet
Squad No: 10
Clubs: Nantes, Lille, Saint-Etienne, Marseille, West Ham, Marseille
Position: Forward/Left winger
Appearances (Marseille): 225
Appearances (career): 596
International caps (France): 38
International goals: 8
JUNIOR CITYZEN OF THE MATCH
Name: Ziggy Brodkin
Favourite player: Kevin De Bruyne
Ziggy’s story: “I am eight years old and my name is Ziggy. I am both footed and I play as a striker. My favourite player is Kevin De Bruyne. My favourite City moment was my first match I went to. I went with my grandpa and City played Chelsea, winning 1-0. Leroy Sane took a free-kick and scored which won us the match.
"I have been to Wembley twice now and each time City won the Carabao Cup against Chelsea and Aston Villa. I also saw City win the Premier League against Brighton when we were neck and neck with Liverpool. Whenever I have some spare time I go onto Sky Sports and either watch a live game or watch match highlights. I’ve been a big City fan since I was born. Come on City!!!
Looking at popular City songs or hidden gems that maybe didn't quite get the airing they deserved...
The Boys In Blue
City! Manchester City!
We are the lads who are playing to win,
City - the Boys in Blue will never give in!
Football is the game that we all live for,
Saturday is the day we play the game,
Everybody has to pull together,
And together we will stand.
Even if we’re playing down at Maine Road,
Or if we play a million miles away,
There will always be our loyal fans behind us,
To cheer us on our way!
City! Manchester City!
We are the lads who are playing to win,
City - the Boys in Blue will never give in.
Blue and white we play together,
We will carry on forever more!
Maybe in another generation,
When other lads have come to take our place,
They’ll carry on the glory of the City,
Keeping City in the place.
City! Manchester City!
We are the lads who are playing to win,
City - the Boys in Blue will never give in,
The Boys in Blue will never give in,
The Boys in Blue will never give in!
What’s the story?
An original song written by half of the 1970s band 10cc in Kevin Godley and Lol Crème and sang by the City squad of the day, ‘The Boys in Blue’ was recorded in the early 1970s and became the song the team ran out to for more than 20 years at Maine Road.
Occasionally sung by the supporters and still played at the Etihad Stadium, the song has been part of matchdays for almost 50 years. It’s also catchy and better than most football songs, but we may be biased!
Ian Brightwell gave more than a decade’s worth of solid service to City from 1986 to 1997.
One of our unsung heroes, in many ways, Brightwell made 382 appearances for City in total and is in our Top 20 all-time list for most games played.
Having seen many player and managers come and go, let’s see who ‘Brighty’ selects for his Dream City XI…
Take it away, Ian…
“Here’s my all-time Manchester City XI with Pep Guardiola as the gaffer.
“Unfortunately, I had to leave some crackers out, but it’s a mix of players who I watched as a kid and players I played or worked with from the modern era.
“Of course, I never saw Bert Trautmann play, but I had the pleasure of meeting him so he has to be in there, albeit on the bench.
"So, may starting XI is as follows...
“I’ve gone for Big Joe in goal, with Tony Book, Vincent Kompany, Paul Lake and Glyn Pardoe across the back.
“I’m going to have to make Book the captain – sorry Vinnie, but I’m sure you understand! As for Lakey, he could play anywhere with his vision and ability.
“My midfield three takes some beating – Yaya Toure, Kevin De Bruyne and Colin Bell. A bit of everything there, with skill, vision, athleticism and power.
“And up front, I’ve gone for skill, technique and goals with Georgi Kinkladze and David Silva either side of Sergio Aguero.
"And it has to be Pep as the gaffer.
“All in all, a decent team!”
The life of riley
The world seen through the blue-tinted glasses of BBC 6 Music DJ Marc Riley
It’s been a busy old week in football. The main talking point seem is perhaps predictably the return of supporters to some Tier 2-sited stadiums.
Now I’m no doctor (well I am actually - but I’m not one you’d ever trust with their opinion) but it seemed a little strange that the couple of thousand supporters who were allowed into the grounds were all in the same stand! Surely it’d be a safer idea to litter them through the different parts of the ground? And if it’s more about achieving some semblance of excitable atmosphere (rather than social distancing) maybe some of the other tiers could have been used in a similar way?
Or… see below*
At this juncture there is no point in getting my proverbial underwear in a twist over this as we are in Tier 3 (despite having lower infection rates than some Tier 2 areas) and as such aren’t allowed to attend our matches - but it was also a little unsettling to see many fans at one particular match (no names no pack-drill) choosing to pull their masks below their chins to empty their lungs into the ether whilst singing songs about their beloved team!
I mean…I’m no doctor (see above) but…surely this is the scenario is where one would need a mask more than any other time!!
I think I might well have come up with a perfect solution to this conundrum.
Trust me I’m a Doctor….
I’ve invented a gadget which fits into ones mouth (see also medical terminology - ‘kisser’/cake-hole’/trap’ and ‘bazoo’) that skirts around the properly worn face-mask and disappears down the front of ones replica shirt. This gadget is called a plastic tube. Around the mid-rift the tube appears. the end of which is steeped in a small bowl of an eco-friendly tried and tested cleaning agent.
DO NOT SPILL.
Out of this receptacle comes another plastic tube (keep up) which is then inserted into the mouthpiece of a LOUDHAILER which is then used to great affect by…
A ; Not only killing any bad stuff before it reaches the fresh air thus keeping everybody safe…
B: It amplifies the painfully out-of-tune bellow to such a degree that the 2,000 or so supporters instantaneously sound more like 10,000 supporters.
It has what we Doctors call a ‘duel effect’. Clever eh!?
I would go on Dragon’s Den with this - but I fear by the time I’d get my appointment, one of you wily beasts who have read this column with have patented the idea already.
I had another great idea last week.
I KNOW I KNOW!
I suggested to a mate that until the time comes that we are allowed back into our place, we should choose to watch the matches in our respective Tier 3 homes on TV as usual - but with all windows and doors wide open thus sucking in the inhospitable freezing gales whirring around our respective gaffs!
It’ll be just like the good old days!
"ALL TOGETHER NOW! WHO ARE YA? WHO ARE YA?"
UP THE BLUES!