Two teams with contrasting form will be in action on Saturday as Manchester City host Hull City at Eastlands. But it is the visitors who find themselves with momentum, having gone unbeaten in November with wins over Stoke City and Everton and a draw with West Ham, whereas the Blues stumble from one draw to another and have not won since September.
After taking a point from Anfield last weekend, Mark Hughes’ men need to get back to winning ways as soon as possible, lest their Champions League qualification hopes fade before New Year. Striker Emmanuel Adebayor, however, feels City’s current run of disappointing results could be the making of the team. The Togo international told Sporting Life: “Big clubs always have difficult moments in a season. These are the type of things that can happen and the secret is dealing with it well.” The former Arsenal striker added: “How we deal with the hard times will be the test of whether we finish in the top four.”
City currently find themselves in sixth, and will be watching closely on Saturday evening as fifth placed Aston Villa host Tottenham Hotspur, who occupy the final Champions League slot. The Citizens are a point behind Villa and four behind Spurs, and with one of those teams guaranteed to drop points this weekend, victory over Hull is vital for City to keep the pressure on the teams above them. But City will have to take on the Tigers without their Player of the Month Martin Petrov, who has failed to recover from a knee injury in time for the game.
One player who could feature, however, is Brazilian forward Robinho. The ex-Real Madrid star has been missing since suffering a stress fracture to his ankle in August, but is expected to play some part in the fixture. City coach Eddie Niedzwiecki told the Manchester Evening News: “Robi is looking really good. Things are looking very promising for him in terms of the weekend and he should be up for selection.” Robinho’s return to fitness comes as his teammate Pablo Zabaleta has urged him to remain in Manchester. The City No 10 has been linked with Barcelona and, speaking to The Sun, Zabaleta said: “I think it’s vital that Robinho stays with Man City. I hope we can enjoy having him with us for a long time. The truth is, we will achieve our goals faster as a club with players like Robinho here.”
Further fitness boosts have come from Vincent Kompany and Michael Johnson, who both came through a reserve game against Blackburn Rovers unscathed. Kolo Toure should also be available, despite being substituted at half-time against Liverpool with a stiff back, while another former Arsenal defender, Sylvinho, is also in contention after overcoming a calf problem. But with Toure fit, City’s defence is likely to be unchanged, despite showing few signs of finding the cohesion necessary to surge up the league.
Even with Hull’s upturn in form, the Yorkshire side still leak goals with alarming regularity. That will be music to City’s ears, as their forte is very much attacking, not defending. Hull fought back from two goals down against West Ham to lead 3-2, only to do their best Manchester City vs. Burnley impersonation and concede again to draw the game 3-3. A similar situation nearly unfolded in Hull’s last outing against Everton, where Phil Brown’s side stormed into a three goal lead before half-time, only to concede twice in the second period. But on this occasion, Hull held on for three points, something Hughes’ players have failed to do in recent weeks.
While City have been criticised for being too offensive-minded, given Hull’s own defensive failings, a recall for Carlos Tevez could be on the cards. The diminutive Argentine made an impressive substitute appearance at Anfield, having a hand in the goal that put City ahead of the team from Merseyside. The fiery ex-West Ham forward has struggled to find the net since he crossed Manchester, but has been backed to hit the goal trail soon by Niedzwiecki. Speaking to mcfc.co.uk, the former Wales goalkeeper said: “Carlos is playing with a smile on his face and he loves to express himself on the pitch. I’m sure we’ll soon see him knocking the goals in like the talent we know he is.” And having made a telling contribution from the bench against Liverpool, Tevez could be the one to tame the Tigers.