Game of the weekend: Manchester United v Manchester City
For all the hype surrounding the Manchester derby at
Wembley on Saturday, City's inexperience on the big stage and general
desperation for success will prove their undoing.
United are ideally suited to negotiating semi-finals
and steering his sides through the latter stages of big competitions is Sir
Alex Ferguson's forte.
For all the money that City have spent, they
a deep instability at the helm, with Roberto Mancini only a few defeats from
being dismissed and no foundation at the club.
You don't go and get a Hugo Boss suit, then match it
with a shirt from Primark. If instability is at the core of any club's
leadership, then it will undermine any amount of high-profile signings.
Without Carlos Tevez, I can only see the first
semi-final going one way, and that is United's. The Argentine makes his side
tick and, without their talisman, the Blues will really struggle.
City have the pressure, the expectation and the
financial investment heaped upon them; United have the confidence, the
experience, and the hunger.
Mancini looks set to play a very conservative
formation with a packed midfield, and United will be able to pick the gaps down
the flanks and use Javier Hernandez's pace in attack to destructive effect.
Ferguson is right that his side are peaking at just
the right time, and I can see United sinking City quite comfortably at Wembley.
Under pressure: Roberto Mancini (Manchester United
v Manchester City)
In stark contrast to Ferguson's assured confidence, you
only have to listen to Mancini talk to realise how under pressure the Italian
currently feels, and the club's obsession with striving for instant success
will surely take its toll on the man in charge.
Against City's nearest and dearest, Mancini can ill
afford to suffer a big defeat, and Tevez's injury could not have come at a
worse time for the Italian.
The City boss relies on Tevez to provide on field
leadership and a cutting edge in attack which is otherwise sorely lacking.
The Argentine gives his side an aggressive,
adventurous spirit, and in his absence there is going to be a distinct lack of
Mancini knows that this is his best chance of success
this season, with all but a fourth-placed finish to play for elsewhere, and the
onus is on him to deliver.
City are under huge pressure, and the fans know it.
There is little doubt that Mancini is not feeling the heavy weight of the
club's backers' expectations on him, and that is likely to produce a very
stifled display on the field.
Upset of the weekend: Arsenal v Liverpool
It is a mark of how far Liverpool have dropped in
terms of their domestic status that if Kenny Dalglish's side get anything at
the Emirates Stadium, then that would be considered a major upset.
A few of Arsenal's players have come out publicly to
back their side going the remainder of the season unbeaten.
Who seriously believes that will happen? Not me.
Something has got to give with Arsenal's defence the
way it is, and opposing sides ready to play in a liberated fashion with nothing
to lose against them.
Liverpool are coming into the game off the back of a
3-0 win over Mancini's City, and should be brimming with confidence all of a
I expect Andy Carroll to run riot at the Emirates,
with Arsenal's flaky centre backs and hugely unpredictable goalkeeping options
presenting the hosts serious problems.
Liverpool should play with nothing to fear, and put
Arsenal's defence under a tremendous amount of pressure: it could lead to a
huge result for Kenny's side.
Player to watch: Didier Drogba (West Brom v Chelsea)
Fernando Torres has to be dropped - it's as simple as
If Torres is to salvage anything from what has already
proved to be a dismal move to Stamford Bridge, he should take a move to Spain
as soon as possible.
The forward has no appetite whatsoever, and appears to
have lost any cutting edge: Carlo Ancelotti knows that he cannot keep picking
him with thinly-veiled reluctance.
Didier Drogba is the man to watch this weekend, and I
expect the Ivorian to thrive against West Brom if he is given the opportunity
he should be.
Drogba is undoubtedly the best striker in Europe when
he is fit and firing, and he should be treated with a lot more respect by
The striker has been a wonderful servant at Chelsea,
and he has every attribute for the Premier League.
Drogba will have a point to prove after being treated
shamefully since Torres arrived at the club, and I believe he
will do just that at the Hawthorns.