City out of cup following abject performance against Middlesbrough
On a day of shocks in the 2015 FA Cup fourth-round draws, Manchester City losing at home to Championship outfit Middlesbrough ranks as one of the biggest. City will have expected to progress to the fifth round of the cup, despite Middlesbrough being in with a great chance to get back to the Premier League next season. As it is, a 2-0 defeat means that City will be focusing their attention on the Premier League and the Champions League from here on. Betfair continues to place City at 9/2 for the 2014/15 Premier League title.
Manuel Pellegrini admitted that Middlesbrough deserved to go through at their expense, but he felt that the game could have been completely different had it not been for the brilliant saves from the opposition goalkeeper – Mejias Osorio. Numerous opportunities in the opening half fell to the likes of David Silva, Stevan Jovetic, and Sergio Aguero. Each one of them foundOsorio in impeccable form, but it seemed like only a matter of time before the reigning Premier League champions opened the scoring.
Against the run of play, Patrick Bamford, who is on loan from Chelsea, opened the scoring with a scrappy finish, but Middlesbrough were not complaining. The match completely changed in complexion, as City offered little in response. In sharp contrast, Middlesbrough started finding more opportunities on the break and they made their passage to the fifth round safe with an injury time goal from Kike. Bamford was once again involved in the goal with a great assist.
The last few weeks have been extremely tough for Pellegrini. Just at the end of 2014, it looked like City were primed to overtake Chelsea in the league. Just two competitive victories so far in 2015 have seen that momentum halted for the time being. Further, there was the midweek trip to Abu Dhabi to play in a friendly match against Hamburg. It is unusual for English teams to take a break at this stage in the season. Unsurprisingly, Pellegrini was questioned over this decision, but he refused to blame this break as a reason for City’s form slipping down further.
After their early exit in the League Cup this season, the club are looking at a difficult end to the season should be form fail to improve especially in the Premier League. A trip to Stamford Bridge to take on table leaders Chelsea awaits the club next week. This could go a long way into determining the season’s success, as City already trail Chelsea by five points and cannot afford to lose more ground. Their record at the Bridge has not been great, but it was not long ago that they managed a memorable 4-2 victory during the height of the Wayne Bridge and John Terry saga.
The presence of world-class names like Yaya Touré, Vincent Kompany, and Sergio Aguero suggests that City would be a major force in the Champions League by now. It has not been the case, as the club has never progressed past the last 16 stage. Just like last season, they will be up against Barcelona in the first knockout round. City went toe to toe with the Spanish opponents and only narrowly lost last season. This would give Pellegrini enough confidence that his team can come on the right side and reach the quarter-finals for the first time.
Barcelona’s struggles for consistency this season have been well-documented. They do not seem to be the same force as they were under Pep Guardiola, although current boss Luis Enrique seems intent on using a similar philosophy.
Aside from looking at Chelsea, City also need to have one eye on Southampton who could potentially get within two points within next weekend. The return of Aguero at this key stage in the season cannot be stressed enough. The Argentine suffered an injury when he was leading the Premier League goal scoring charts. Despite falling to second place behind Costa, Aguero remains a favourite to win the Golden Boot award. Betfair offers odds of 2/1 for Aguero to score the most league goals this season.