And for the second time in three Premier League games, we steel ourselves for an afternoon of total anonymity. Not on the pitch, hopefully, but certainly off it and especially during the pre-match period when the pundits will refer to us as if we were just there to make up the numbers. Because again we are playing one of the Sky Super Mega Fandabidozee Five (or Six, depending on whether Tottenham now count).
Manchester City, always one of football’s most interesting clubs, host the Tigers in the weekend’s early kick off. It isn’t on Sky, but on BT Sport, thereby prompting many a City fan unwilling to fork out £41 for a ticket trying to find a boozer that is running this new channel. That as maybe, the emphasis for the TV types will be to talk exclusively about the team irritatingly monikered nationally as ‘City’ – it’s not as if the suffix isn’t common or anything; oh hang on, we can’t say that now – who have a new manager, new expectations and, both fascinatingly and worryingly, an early inconsistency this season.
They butchered Newcastle United 4-0 in their opening game before losing 3-2 to Cardiff City last week. This is a great test of whether one’s glass is half full or half empty if a member of the Tiger Nation is assessing the situation. The half full mob would say that Cardiff’s win proves Manchester City are vulnerable, gettable, strewn with weaknesses; the half empty brigade will simply expect a massive, damaging backlash. And the last thing we need is another humiliating pummeling at the Etihad Stadium.
While the press bring up, yet again, that team talk from 2008 (while forgetting Jimmy Bullard’s savagely timed riposte to all the bruhaha a season later), we’ll concentrate on the here and now. City – that’s us, by the way, in case you’re a Manchester City fan butting in – have never won a league game at the Etihad or Maine Road but any time is a good time to break a hoodoo. Steve Bruce has one big decision to make, having seen pretty much everyone in the starting XI at Leyton Orient in midweek starkly show that they’re not up to the task of representing the club in the Premier League.
That decision involves who plays instead of the suspended Yannick Sagbo. Depending on the formation, Bruce will choose either George Boyd, who can do the wider, silkier stuff that Sagbo provided well at Chelsea for a spell; or he’ll recall Danny Graham, who is a better fit if a straight down the line centre forward is required. Whoever doesn’t get the gig will be on the bench; the question mark then goes next to the array of currently nonplussed back-up strikers as to who gets the fresh sub’s vacancy created. Matt Fryatt probably ought to have it, but Nick Proschwitz will probably get it.
The hosts welcome back defender Matija Nastasic in place of Javi Garcia, while there will be interest from the away end in Alvaro Negredo, the striker whose goal at Cardiff will probably earn him a starting place, as he allegedly nearly joined City in the summer of 2009 for money we patently didn’t have.
Bullard’s nicely celebrated pen earned a point in the Tigers’ last game on Mancunian territory but generally this fixture is free of worthy history or notable events from the pre-Premier League era; indeed, this is only the ninth season ever the two teams have been in the same division. It’s also free of excitement on the predictions front, according to the bookies – we’re a colossal 14/1 to win this, with 2/11 on a home win and 6/1 for the draw. At worst, a repeat of Chelsea would suffice – keep the goal difference manageable, suffer no injuries, get out with heads up, pass it a bit – but again, if you are looking at liquid in your tumbler rather than air, there could be more to gain yet.