The Citizens enjoy a two-point advantage at the top of the standings over their Manchester rivals United and know that they cannot afford too many slip-ups if they are to realise their dream of clinching the crown ahead of Alex Ferguson’s side.
Thus, I expect Etihad boss Roberto Mancini to emphasise the importance of winning games like this – against opposition in the wrong half of the table.
Bolton are second from the bottom with just six wins from 26 games, yet, Mancini will also call for caution in the knowledge that a wounded entity like the Trotters cannot be taken lightly.
Indeed, Owen Coyle’s team have lost their last three league fixtures – against Chelsea, Wigan and Norwich – and will be hoping for a measure of redemption when they visit the Etihad today.
However, the odds are stacked heavily against the visitors, who will arrive in Manchester attempting to do what no team have managed this season – take a point or more off the league leaders.
City’s form at the Etihad has been perfect since the season’s start, featuring a run that has seen them win all 13 home matches. They have conceded the least number of goals in the Premier League (19) and, more excitingly, scored a greater number than anyone else (67).
It is this attack-minded system of Mancini’s that has captured the imagination of the purists, some of whom have forecast a thrashing for Bolton. But given where they have got so far this season, City will take a win regardless of how it might be manufactured.
Much of City’s potency in the domestic title race has been a superb gelling of some real great talents drawn from across three continents and a masterminding of tactics by Mancini, one of the best in the business.
With the international friendlies played in midweek, there will no doubt be some who will have returned with bumps and bruises, but even this should not undermine the squad’s quest for the biggest prize in English football.
There has been some conjecture as to whether or not Carlos Tevez will be in the squad against Bolton. The troubled Argentine has just returned from the cold following his fallout with Mancini,
Common sense tells us that even if he is in the squad, Tevez is most likely to start on the bench, primarily because of a lack of match fitness.
Sergio Aquero, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko all scored in the 3-0 win over Blackburn last weekend and, depending on who gets to start up front, they should be given another shot at adding to their season haul.
It would be quite fascinating if Mancini fielded all three of them from the start, something unlikely though, if only because the Italian has his focus trained on winning the league title just like Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allsion did 40-odd years ago, rather than engaging in showbiz eccentrics.
Shaun Orange thinks Bolton will come unstuck in a 3-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium, again proving that City are the strongest team around.
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