How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Cardiff City in Return to EPL Action

Phil KeidelContributor IIJanuary 16, 2014

Another day, another keeper being abused by Negredo.
Another day, another keeper being abused by Negredo.Stu Forster/Getty Images

Manchester City are on an absurd roll right now, and manager Manuel Pellegrini is beginning to let himself enjoy it a little.

Manchester City's last loss in any competition came over two months ago at Sunderland. Since then, the Sky Blues have lined up in anger 16 times. 

They won 14 of those matches and drew the other two.

After their most recent dismissal of an outclassed opponent, a 5-0 boat-racing of Blackburn Rovers in a third-round FA Cup replay, Pellegrini offered praise for his side's offensive prowess—and took a veiled shot at Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho in the telling.

Per Jamie Jackson of the Guardian, Pellegrini had this to say about City's ruthless four-goal second half against Rovers: 

We continue playing a style of football that for us is very important to continuenot to score one goal and try to keep the ball. It is more easy to go back with 10 players and try to counterattack but it is not my philosophy, it is not the philosophy this club wants to play.

In that Pellegrini quote are mocking echoes of Mourinho's recent petulance about his Chelsea team's on-again, off-again defensive prowess as told to Charles Reynolds of the Independent: “If I want to win 1-0 I think I can as I think it is one of the easiest things in football. It is not so difficult.”

Manchester City and Pellegrini have shown this season that winning 4-0, 5-0, 6-0 and even 7-0 is not so difficult when the team is running at full throttle.

"You know what's fun? I'll tell you what's fun: SCORING GOALS."
"You know what's fun? I'll tell you what's fun: SCORING GOALS."Gallo Images/Getty Images

Pellegrini's assassins have now scored 99 goals in all competitions. The 100th goal seems a foregone conclusion in City's upcoming Premier League tussle with Cardiff City.

The Citizens will no doubt recall that they scored twice at Cardiff City in late August—and lost 3-2.

The concept of payback is sort of hackneyed where professional athletes are concerned. Manchester City are not going to try to punish Cardiff City; they are going to try to keep their six-match Premier League winning streak alive.

Pellegrini rested two of his key defenders (Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany) and keeper Joe Hart against Rovers. Those three will feature against Cardiff City, as will most of Pellegrini's best.

The Premier League title race is too close now to risk another slip-up against a thoroughly outgunned Cardiff City squad.

My predicted XI for City against Cardiff City therefore looks like this: Joe Hart; Gael Clichy, Martin Demichelis, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta; Aleksandar Kolarov, David Silva, Fernandinho, Jesus Navas; Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo.

Hardest done by with this XI will be Edin Dzeko, who it must be said has played more or less out of his mind lately and quite well all season:

But as good as Dzeko has been, even Dzeko's closest friends might be tempted to get the fully healed Aguero back into match shape with his preferred strike partner Negredo as soon as possible.

Besides, if Aguero and Negredo do the business in the first half, Dzeko can get himself another second-half brace if he likes.