We have only won twice in our last 11 away games in all competitions and those wins were against Blackpool and Huddersfield. We should have won away to Spurs a couple of weeks ago though and except for some very poor refereeing and a last minute penalty miss we would have won too. I thought we were pretty much in control of the game away to Rennes last week too until the Sokratis Papastathopoulos red card, but our utter inability to cope when playing with a man down cost us dearly.
The players have the chance to redeem themselves tonight though and it would be quite the redemption with a two goal lead for Rennes to overturn. It’s certainly far from impossible and I’d say our chances are a little less than 50/50, but we have given ourselves an uphill struggle. If we’re going to do it we’re going to have to put in a performance similar to the one against United on Sunday.
I know United had their chances in that game and we rode our luck a few times, but you couldn’t question the attitude and commitment of the players for one moment in the game. Unai Emery made a bold team selection and it paid off for him even if we had a little help from David de Gea and the woodwork. He might need to be just as bold tonight because we need to have enough attacking intent to cause them real problems.
Of course we opened them up at ease in the first leg and we really should have been more than one goal ahead by the time Sokratis got his marching orders. I’m not denying how easily they opened us up when we were down to 10 men, but their defensive abilities offer us real hope for tonight. Hopefully the penalty Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored against United can be the catalyst for him to find some form in front of goal again.
His finishing has been below par recently and I know strikers miss chances all the time, but everything about his game is off at the moment. Thankfully Alexandre Lacazette’s suspension was reduced and he can play tonight and I would be very surprised if the manager didn’t play both of our main strikers. They work well together and Lacazette is on a great run of contributing at least a goal or assist in successive games for quite a while now.
If Mesut Ozil gets the nod again he’s the man who can open them up and make the chances for those two as well as getting our wide players in behind them. Speaking of which I wonder if the manager will use three central defenders again and let the wing backs get forward. We create quite a lot of our chances from pull backs when our wide players get behind the opposition and Sead Kolasinac is probably our best player at getting into that position.
If he does use that formation it would probably mean Shkodran Mustafi filling in for the suspended Sokratis and regular readers will know how that makes me feel. He’s an accident waiting to happen in almost every game he plays, but we would have little other choice with that formation tonight. If we play two central defenders and Nacho Monreal gets the nod over Mustafi it would also be a clear message of how the manager rates Mustafi I suppose.
Anyway here’s hoping we can come up with another good performance and result tonight and our home form in the league would suggest it’s certainly well within our capabilities. We have won 13 of our 16 home games in the league this season with only City winning more and we’re currently on a nine game winning streak. In five of our last six home games we would have done enough to either put Rennes out or bring the game to extra time and we need more of the same tonight. I can’t say I’m overly confident of us going through, but I have a nagging feeling we’re not quite done with the Europa League yet this season.
That’s it for today.
See you tomorrow.