Eventful year for Willy Caballero at Man City

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Willy Caballero culminated as an incredible goalkeeper for Manchester City after his extraordinary penalty save in the 5-3 Champions League victory over Monaco. One year ago, there was an online petition signed by the City fans in order to persuade the then-boss Manuel Pellegrini to leave the cup keeper out of the Capital One Cup final. They asked him to select Joe Hart instead. Caballero played in the match, collected his Winners’ medal and became the City No.1.

In the span of 12 months, Pellegrini and Hart have moved on to China and Italy respectively. Caballero is now the first choice keeper of Pep Guardiola at the Etihad. His contract is ending this summer and there are speculations that the City boss could offer a new deal to the 35 year old at the end of the season.

This has been an incredible turnaround for a keeper who was considered as a competition to Hart after his move in July but became a nervous and hesitant flop.

Pallegrini picked out Caballero knowing about his qualities from the time together at Malaga. They were a part of the run to the quarter finals of the Champions League in 2013. The Chilean considered him as a potential rival to Hart and thought that he would push the highly rated England keeper to get better.

Willy had to struggle during the first 18 months due to individual errors and indecision that created uncertainty throughout the defence.  Pellegrini believed in him as a keeper for the domestic cup competitions. But he committed mistakes on their run to the Capital One Cup final in the third round win over Sunderland and semifinal first leg defeat at Everton.

He was blamed for the 5-1 defeat FA Cup defeat at Chelsea one week before the Wembley final against Liverpool. Pellegrini was put under pressure to make a change but he refused saying that he would rather lose a title than to lose his word and there was no chance of Willy not playing the match.

He made the right decision as Caballero became the unlikely hero in the penalty shootout victory. His spot kick saves from Lucas and Philippe Coutinho helped to put City ahead. When Adam Lallana arrived to take the fourth penalty, Caballero was indomitable. He was fluently diving full length to his right in order to keep out the effort of the England midfielder.

It was a spectacular moment for the Keeper and he received a lot of affection from the City fans after the Capital One Cup final. It looked like a glorious ending to a difficult two season at the Etihad and he was expected to move with his old ally Pellegrini as Guardiola came in. But surprisingly he allowed the England keeper Hart to go on loan to Torino and Caballero remained in the team.

He was driven in to the action for the Champions League clash with Barcelona when Bravo was suspended in November. In January he was chosen over Bravo for the Premier League clash with West Ham. There were flaws in his performance and Caballero took responsibility for Radamel Falcao’s fist goal. But he made up for it with the penalty save that put Monaco 3-1 ahead and another save at the dying minute which provided a two-goal advantage to City. This has been quite a turnaround for a keeper whose future looked desolate at the initial days.

Pep Guardiola needs to shake-up Man City in Title race

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Manchester City have secured their place in the Champions League round 16 and it was not fluent for them. With a stumbling and tentative 1-1 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday they have been through the next round.

Currently the club has lost its easy days of passing, high intensity pressing and scintillating football. The match on Wednesday was all about hard work from first minute till the last one which did not give them a clear win but a draw.

The 3-1 victory over Barcelona in the beginning of the month had been intense along with a rewarding end to it. But the present situation of the team is thrusting their supporters back into a dark grey passage of doubt and apprehension.

They were expected to finish second behind Barcelona in a well-balanced group C and it would have been acceptable that a little damage has been done. But considering their performances away from home in this season’s tournament, the situation seems alarming.

Three goals were shipped at Celtic Park in a game that was completely topsy-turvy and out of City’s control. Then there was another four goals in a match that exploded in their faces at the Camp Nou. Gaurdiola have seen his own defence concede almost all the time and look so defenceless in doing so.

Lars Stindl for the hosts and Fernandinho for City along with the two red cards have been drawing a great competitiveness out of both the teams. Gaurdiola’s team finished the game by playing keep-ball across the backline for most of the unenthusiastic second half. Ambitions had dropped off to this level and both the teams kept their powder well and dry even though they were aware about the greater trials to come.

Gaurdiola must be preoccupied with the thought that City have lost their dynamism. At the beginning of the season City promised so much for this season. In Bucharest they had missed two penalties but even that did not stop them from a 5-0 win away from home against Steaua in a difficult environment.

Since then it has been a tough slog for this talented team with an exception of a magical night at home against Barcelona. Even the Barcelona game witnessed ambush from the visitors during the first half of the match and that might have finished City off by half time if it were not for the fortuitous equaliser before half time.

After the unbelievable arrival of Leicester City at the top of the table in the last season, 2016-17 is also turning into a strange affair. Tottenham seems incapable of shredding the less mortal teams and Chelsea had an uncertain start but they are now playing majestically under the guidance of Antonio Conte. Arsenal and Liverpool are on the same track and the fragility is purely perceptible.

None of the teams have succeeded in stamping their authority in this season yet. If City is planning on taking the lead then there’s a lot of work that is needed to be done. Guardiola needs to shake-up the spirit of the team in order to take this season by the scruff of the neck.

Manchester City lurch under Guardiola but Palace provide a chance to hit back

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Manchester City is desperately in need of a win as they head to the Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park on Saturday. City is two points off the top of the Premier League table after 11 games. This is not a very poor record but they could have been on a much better position considering the team’s performance in the start of the season.

City had their six wins in the first six matches of the season but were able to bag only one win in the last five matches. It looked like a great start for the team but undermined by below-par form.

It has knocked down the confidence and motivation of the team. The success in the opening match against Sunderland was a little unexpected but the 87th minute goal my McNair sealed the win. The rest of the wins in the run have been more comfortable for the club. They played their rivals off the park, scored for fun and cruised through fixtures.

The drop points for the club were the 3-3 draw in Champions League with Celtic and the 2-0 defeat to Tottenham on 2nd October. City haven’t looked the same after the down fall since then. They are still dominating possession but the defences are becoming very difficult to break. The only exception was the 4-0 at West Brom.

Three successive home draws in the Premier League were not much of a help to the club. Everton, Middlesbrough and Southampton are not walkovers but the 1-1 draw have been disappointing for City who have been aiming to win the League. A draw against one of these would have been fine but three consecutive draws were highly unsatisfactory for the club.

There are two issues that are creating trouble for Guardiola. He can’t rely on outscoring his rivals in order to win a match and also he can’t be assured if his team could hang on to the narrow lead at present.

Away matches with Crystal Palace and Burnley look like a good opportunity for City to buckle up. Palace are one of the most competitive teams for to City to come up against right now.

Playing away from home is also a positive point for Guardiola. The team and the manager both have been under pressure while performing at the Etihad in recent weeks. Although the away trips are considered to be pretty difficult, Guardiola have nullified that for City in this season.

They are coping up better with the crowd away from home than the uneasy audience at home ground. The back-to-back matches away in the top flight either side of a trip to Borussia Monchengladbach could be a good opportunity City to get back in the run all over again.

City’s record at Palace have been excellent till date. They have a record of only one defeat in their last five defeats and a total score of 10 wins out of the 11 meetings. Guardiola is hoping for a rise in the table and a win at Palace. This would help him to leave a mark on the Premier League for the second time of the season.