Manchester City will host Borussia Dortmund in their midweek Champions League fixture following a narrow 2-1 victory over Fulham. Dortmund on the other hand are coming off the back of a 5-0 thumping of Borussia Mochengladbach. Roberto Mancini has struggled to settle on a fixed strike partnership and following Edin Dzeko’s late winner at Craven Cottage, his job hasn’t gotten any easier.
Towards the end of last season, the combination between Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez upfront flourished and the duo was touted to carry on in the same fashion this season. An injury to Aguero in their opening league game delayed that possibility. The Argentine strikers were reunited in attack against Fulham but rarely combined to good effect despite Aguero’s goal from a rebound.
The preferred strike partnership for City
Aguero and Tevez are similar in more ways than one. Both strikers enjoy dribbling and running at defenders. From a tactical point of view, it must be realized that both players use their mobility to make clever runs in behind defences. But what happens when there isn’t any space behind the defensive line to run into?
Now that the Blues are Premier League champions, teams are going to respect them a lot more and be reluctant of attacking them with too much ambition lest they get caught on the counter attack. As seen already this season, teams are likely to sit deep and keep things tight in defence when facing the Manchester club. When a team sits so deep, it’s impossible for players like Tevez and Aguero to get in behind them and they end up either dropping too far into midfield or playing with their backs towards the goal; neither option suits the talents of the two Argentines.
However, when teams do sit deep there is another way to expose them. Using a target man upfront and delivering quality crosses into the box is sure to pay off sooner or later. With the defence sitting so deep, they practically invite crosses into that dangerous area around the six yard box. Edin Dzeko fits the bill in that respect.
Dzeko scored the winner against Fulham on Saturday
The Bosnian’s physique and aerial ability gives defences an added problem. At the same time, he has a good turn of pace and can make good runs in behind as well. He has good experience in the Bundesliga where he helped Wolfsburg win the title in the 2008-09 season at the end of which he was named the Bundesliga Players’ Footballer of the year. He continued his form in the following season as he finished as the top scorer with 22 goals. His experience and success against German opposition should push him up in the pecking order for the encounter with Dortmund.
Following their opening game defeat to Real Madrid, the Citizens will be desperate to beat the Bundesliga champions at home. The fact that Dortmund won their opening fixture in the group raises the importance of winning this game for City. If Madrid beat Ajax and City lose their game, a six point gap would open up between them and the top two spots in the group. Thereafter, City would need a miracle to progress; all the more reason then for Mancini to call upon Dzeko.
The Bosnian also bagged a goal against Real Madrid
The striker is a proven goal-scorer but he also has a knack for scoring crucial goals. Last season he scored the equalizer against Queens Park Rangers (QPR) before Aguero snatched the winner to bag the Premier League title. Most recently, he scored the winner against Fulham as mentioned earlier.
Manchester City have an embarrassment of riches in the striking department and it is for that reason Dzeko is often cast as the forgotten man. Sergio Aguero was City’s talisman upfront last season and their top scorer, Tevez is the mercurial striker whose ability makes up for his mood swings while Mario Balotelli is gifted and unwittingly draws attention to himself due to his off-field antics.
It's time Mancini puts faith in Dzeko
Perhaps it’s time that Mancini values Dzeko’s reliable nature a lot more instead of underappreciating him. The striker may not possess phenomenal skill but has all the attributes to be a top centre forward and play with or without a supporting striker. Dzeko has scored three goals in the league this season and also bagged the second against Madrid at the Bernabeu in the Champions League. Despite his lack of playing time, he is the joint top-scorer for the Blues so far this season along Tevez.
Strikers tend to drift in and out of their goal-scoring form so while Dzeko appears to be in the midst of a purple patch, it would be foolhardy for Mancini to waste him on the bench in this moment in time. Dzeko must play against Dortmund and give City an alternative route of attack.
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