The FourFourTwo Preview: Hull vs Man City
Stuttering City look to get their title charge back on track against Wembley-bound Hull.
A lot can change in four years. The last time these two teams got together for a league meeting in Humberside, Manchester City were fighting a losing battle to establish themselves in the top four, Portsmouth were in the Premier League - albeit on their way out - and Hull City were called Hull City. Wayne Bridge was 'an important player' for City, with then manager Roberto Mancini offering support for his left-back in light of The John Terry Scandal, Jozy Altidore was finding the net, scoring the winner in a 2-1 win that took the Tigers out of the relegation zone, and Dedryck Boyata was considered the next big thing.
- Hull 3-0 S'land (FAC)
- Hull 1-4 Newcastle (Prem)
- Hull 2-1 Brighton (FAC)
- Cardiff 0-4 Hull (Prem)
- Brighton 1-1 Hull (FAC)
MAN CITY FORM
- Barca 2-1 Man City (CL)
- Man City 1-2 Wigan (FAC)
- Man City 3-1 S'land (LC)
- Man City 1-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Man City 0-2 Barca (CL)
Meanwhile, over in Spain, Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini was chasing a Barcelona team at its zenith and Getafe's Roberto Soldado was ahead of Atletico Madrid's Sergio Aguero in the scoring charts.
A look back at City's matchday squad on that day in February 2010 showed a team in flux. The January transfer window had just closed and Mancini's team displayed the green shoots of a new team, a hybrid of the old City - Given, Onuoha, Ireland, Bellamy, Wright-Phillips - and the new - Tevez, Zabaleta, De Jong and deadline day signing Adam Johnson. It is perhaps a period in time City fans might reflect on and draw some comfort from after a difficult week in which Pellegrini's men crashed out of two competitions.
City saw off the Tigers 2-0 back in August with goals from Alvaro Negredo and Yaya Toure, but Hull haven't lost at home to this year's League Cup winners in the Premier League era (one win, one draw). Both sets of fans will experience Wembley this season, but only one of them in the FA Cup.
Steve Bruce's men will look to hot-foot it further away from the relegation zone - they currently hold five points worth of breathing space - while City need to turn games in hand into points in the bag as they chase Chelsea at the top. With the League Cup trophy lifted and champagne sprayed, the league title is now City's only remaining hope.
Two of Bruce's most reliable players - Jake Livermore and Curtis Davies - are nursing minor knocks but should recover in time to feature, while Robbie Brady (groin) and Paul McShane (ankle) remain longer-term absentees.
For City, Matija Nastasic is very likely to be sidelined with a knee injury, but on the positive side Stevan Jovetic's hamstring should clear up in time. Sergio Aguero picked up a problem against Barcelona and will also miss out, a huge blow for the visitors at this important stage of the season.
Player to watch: Vincent Kompany (Man City)
"If he played for Barcelona they'd win the Champions League, he's that good." Jamie Redknapp was full of praise for City's armband-wearing Belgian after the 2-1 defeat in Barcelona in midweek. Jamie Carragher, also on punditry duty for Sky, likened him to Marcel Desailly and wondered if he might be the best centre-back in the world (although a certain Brazilian at PSG may have a few thoughts on that one).
Kompany's performance went a long way towards City keeping the score down in Camp Nou. He made a number of vital interceptions, blocks, tackles and clearances, and even managed to pop up at the other end of the pitch to score City's only goal over the two legs of a 4-1 defeat. With City more goal shy now than at any point this season, remaining steady at the back will be vital.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- City 2-0 Hull (Prem, Aug 13)
- Hull 2-1 City (Prem, Feb 10)
- City 1-1 Hull (Prem, Nov 09)
- City 5-1 Hull (Prem, Dec 08)
- Hull 2-2 City (Prem, Nov 08)
Bruce and Pellegrini have faced off just the one time, Hull's 2-0 defeat at the Etihad last August. Tactically it should be an interesting game. Bruce is not shy of switching his formation based on the opponent, and is likely to stick with a 5-3-2 formation with Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long in attack and an extra man in defence to guard against Pellegrini's likely switch - a return to two strikers, having opted for a more conservative, arguably timid one up front in Barcelona. Aguero's probable absence means the Chilean will rely on Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko to help bag the three points.
Facts and figures
- Hull have lost 4 of 6 home matches this season against the current top nine.
- Hull have been level at half-time in 7 of their last 9 home matches.
- Man City have won 4 of their last 5 away matches while scoring 14 times.
- 10 of Man City’s last 12 away wins have come after leading at half-time.
A 12.45pm kick-off after travelling back from Barcelona does City no favours (the kind of scheduling Jose Mourinho would be very quick to moan about, we suspect). Hull are on an FA Cup high and should be up for this, and without Aguero the visitors may find it tough given the Tigers' home record. 1-1.