Our Nigerian teen idol, Pablo’s 300th appearance and a convincing victory under the microscope.
@markbooth_mcfc investigates five things we learned from City’s 4-0 victory over the Potters…
The perfect preparation…
Manuel Pellegrini could hardly have dreamed of a more perfect prelude to City’s UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg.
The nature of City’s emphatic victory allowed the Chilean to withdraw a trio of players who are surely in line to start Tuesday’s mouthwatering clash.
David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Fernando all left the field early when the three points were safely secured, while Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany, Bacary Sagna and Raheem Sterling were afforded afternoons off.
The 2-0 advantage at the half-time break also allowed City just to take the foot off the gas a little, conserving energy for the challenges ahead.
A Real battle…
By contrast, there’s no doubt that City’s next opponents had a tougher time of it and were not given the luxury of such a simple Saturday afternoon assignment.
14 minutes into their La Liga clash, Rayo Vallecano were 2-0 up on a Real Madrid side which went into the game knowing that they would probably need to win all of their remaining games to have any chance of winning the title.
A brace from Gareth Bale and a goal from Lucas Vázquez eventually won the day for Los Blancos but, unlike City, they were made to sweat, with Bale only grabbing the winning goal after 81 minutes.
More worryingly for the ten-time champions, Karim Benzema hobbled off the field before half-time and, like Cristiano Ronaldo, will be a worry for Zinedine Zidane ahead of the trip to Manchester.
Kelechi’s big day...
Let’s hear it for The Kid – a teenager who looks as though he was born to score goals.
Kelechi Iheanacho continues to grasp every opportunity handed to him with both hands.
Making his first start since the FA Cup defeat to Chelsea, the Nigerian did look a little rusty with his first few touches but after his sixth-minute effort which very nearly gave City the lead, he never looked back.
The 19-year old has had a hand in nine goals (five goals, four assists) in eight competitive Premier League starts and became City’s joint third top scorer in all competitions with 11.
Most impressively of all, he’s netted his five Premier League goals in just 517 minutes – an Aguero-esque strike rate of one every 103 minutes.
It’s also now, a frankly obscene, one every 81 minutes in all competitions.
Not a bad breakthrough season…
He’s The Man…
How fitting that Pablo Zabaleta marked his 300th appearance with an assist that showcased the very best of City’s Argentine warrior.
His lung-busting run down the right was perfectly-timed and the pull-back for Iheanacho was measured beautifully for the Nigerian to stroke home his third.
Ironically, it was the man on the away bench on Saturday, Mark Hughes, who brought Pablo to the club way back in 2008 and what a shrewd piece of business that has turned out to be.
The evergreen full-back is one of the club’s most beloved heroes – an adopted Manc who never gives less than 100%, setting the standards for effort week-in-week-out.
By his own admission, Pablo has never been about the velvet touches that a David Silva might possess or the otherworldly finishing a Sergio Aguero has, but he will go down as one of the club’s all-time greats all the same.
Race for the top four…
That race for UEFA Champions League qualification is getting tasty…
City leapfrogged Arsenal into third place, for 24 hours at least, and moved five points clear of Manchester United, although we’ve played a game more.
With Southampton, Arsenal and Swansea remaining, Pellegrini’s men kept themselves in the hunt with these vital three points following the disappointing draw at Newcastle.