This is the one, isn’t it? After defeat in total glory to Manchester United, this is the one. We would have taken an injury-free cuffing from the reigning Premier League champions if it meant guaranteeing three points from the game two days later, wouldn’t we?
There is real daylight to be acquired between ourselves and those near the bottom of the table if a victory can be gleaned today in the final game of a brilliant 2013. But this is City, of course. Enough people know that a massive performance against Manchester United won’t necessarily be reproducible against a struggling Cottagers side who got themselves three big points of their own at Norwich on Boxing Day. One would hope City’s team will maintain the sense of importance and occasion that they showed by the wagonload two days ago. Indeed, one would expect it.
City haven’t won in five now but still have an outstanding record at the Circle, conceding just six goals altogether – three of which came on Boxing Day. Steve Bruce will make two changes and possibly more – Allan McGregor and David Meyler are definitely out after their first half knee injuries against the champions, so Steve Harper and probably Robert Koren will start. Alex Bruce, meanwhile, will have a calf injury tested before a decision is made, though as our current form defender, it will be a boon if he is able to start the game. Paul McShane is ready if required.
Fulham will have former City loanee David Stockdale in goal and could get Dimitar Berbatov in the side too if he passes a late fitness test on a groin injury.
The historical significance of this fixture is obvious, thanks to the events of August 2008 when City lined up in the Premier League for the first time ever and beat Roy Hodgson’s side 2-1. Indeed, in four top flight fixtures, City have won three and lost just the one and are priced at 6/5 for victory today. Fulham get odds of 5/2 and the draw is set currently at 9/4. Liverpool and Chelsea are City’s next two Premier League opponents, making victory in this one perhaps even more important than we already know it is. C’mon City.