Keys & Gray: Pellegrini’s decisions a big problem

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Tactically suspect: Manuel Pellegrini.

Tomorrow’s Manchester derby is set to be a fascinating contest between two manag­ers under the spotlight. Manuel Pellegrini has seen his side’s form slump and United boss Louis van Gaal has problems of his own. Andy Gray and Richard Keys, who front beIN Sports’ EPL give their view.

Andy Gray: I don’t know what to make of City. Two defeats and one poor draw in their last three games is not the kind of form you want to take into a local derby. With David Silva injured, it’s a real blow for a game of this magnitude and I have to say that I was a bit surprised that Pellegrini didn’t take the opportu­nity to rest him in the League Cup against Newcastle in midweek.

With a game as big as this on the horizon you have to rest your very best players so to risk him was a bit odd. Pellegrini has made a few strange decisions lately with respect to formation and tactics. I call this game management and it hasn’t been as good as it should be for someone of his experience.

His ability to change a match midstream or select a side which is going to be a little different from the norm doesn’t appear to be as good as others.

Take the game against CSKA Moscow when they were two up. He should have shut up shop but he didn’t and they ended up drawing. Can you tell me why, when you are 2-0 up away from home in the Champi­ons League, you keep two centre forwards on with Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero?

Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson before he retired or Arsene Wenger would have taken Dzeko off and stuck a midfielder or defender on to protect that lead. Pellegrini doesn’t seem to be able to make these big decision.

Collectively, City have been poor recently. I think we are seeing a team that is trying to bed-in a new centre-back in Eliaquim Mangala and it’s not going well while Yaya Toure is a shadow of the player we saw last season. Samir Nasri has hardly figured, due to injury, and the only one who has been up there doing it on his own is Aguero.

Basically, the big players haven’t produced often enough so far this season.

United might consider draws at West Brom and against Chelsea when they snatched a fortunate late equaliser to be good results but despite all the talk about the qual­ity of their strikeforce they haven’t blown anyone away, apart from QPR who are awful.

Wayne Rooney’s return is a bonus but it’s what Van Gaal decides to do with him back in the side which will be interesting. Will Rooney come in with Robin van Persie instead of Juan Mata or will RVP be dropped to make way for his skipper?

Personally, I would leave out Mata because he just isn’t do­ing it at United but don’t be surprised if he drops Van Persie because, despite his late goal against Chelsea, he has not been great. United might fancy they can get something out of this but I expect City’s big players to step up to the plate. 2-1.

Richard Keys: I have never had much faith in Pellegrini because I was a huge fan of Roberto Mancini and never really understood why they sacked him. I don’t necessar­ily think he has been found out but he is limited in his managerial decision making. He has one way of playing which when it works is great but when it doesn’t there doesn’t appear to be a plan B.

Yes, I know he won the title but he did it with Mancini’s team and now they appear to have hit the wall which doesn’t surprise me because I have spoken many times about this group of players.

There are a lot of difficult indi­viduals in that dressing room, a collection of enormous egos who, when they want to play, can blow away the very best but they don’t want to do that often enough, particularly Toure who, so far, just hasn’t turned up.

I’m not having the argument that this is a hangover from the World Cup. How come he is the only one still struggling when every other player who was in that tournament seems to be back on form? No, there is something more to it than that. Having said all that I think tomorrow will be one of those days when the egos will be at it and they can beat an average United.

I’m not into this Louis van Gen­ius nonsense. He brought a new belief and swept away the cobwebs at Old Trafford but their defensive frailties are there for all to see. There is still a lot of work to be done at Old Trafford. 3-1 to City.

Newcastle v Liverpool

AG: Two weeks ago I would have gone for a Liverpool away win but Newcastle have turned things around. In the last seven games they have only lost one and they are up against a Liverpool side which is nowhere near the team that impressed us last season. 1-1.

RK: I thought Alan Pardew was heading for the sack but he has proved me wrong and good luck to him because he took a bit of a kicking. Without Daniel Sturridge Liverpool look lost. 2-1 home win.

Arsenal v Burnley

AG: Home banker. I can’t give you any justifiable reason for Burnley to go to the Emirates and come away with a result. 3-0.

RK: 4-0 Arsenal. Are Burnley that bad? Yes.

Chelsea v QPR

AG: Chelsea have a 100 per cent record at home this season and it will be the shock of the weekend if that changes against QPR. 2-0.

RK: QPR ground out a win against Villa last week but it doesn’t change the way I feel about a team that is basically a shambles. Chel­sea are in a different league. 2-0.

Everton v Swansea

AG: Wilfried Bony and Gylfi Sig­urdsson look useful and they could cause Everton some problems. However, my old team has moved up a gear. 3-1.

RK: I was impressed with Swansea against Leicester last week but if Everton’s current form continues they can win this 2-1.

Hull v Southampton

AG: We keep waiting for South­ampton to slip up but it hasn’t happened. Hull are tough to beat at home but I think the Saints can keep it going with a 2-1 victory.

RK: Southampton is one of the great Premier League stories when you consider they sold the best part of their team in the summer. Right now I can’t see them losing but Hull are a dogged side. 1-1.

Leicester v West Brom

AG: Nigel Pearson’s Leicester have slipped down the league after a ter­rific start to the season. West Brom are a decent side but away from home I’m not sure they are good enough. 1-0 home win.

RK: I am disappointed with Leices­ter who are now in a tricky posi­tion. They look like a Champion­ship team and right now I wouldn’t be surprised if they slipped back down at the end of the season. 2-1 away win.

Aston Villa v Tottenham

AG: These Villa players have made history with the worst run this club has ever had; five defeats and no goals which is shocking. I hope they feel as embarrassed as I feel for them. Fortunately for them Spurs are also unpredictable. 2-2.

RK: Villa are awful and they are summed up by Gabriel Agbonlahor – can’t be bothered. Spurs weren’t much better against Newcastle last week but they will win this 2-0.

Crystal Palace v Sunderland

AG: Gus Poyet has to do something to lift his players because the mis­takes they have made in their last two games have been ridiculous for professional footballers. Palace are tough to beat and with home advantage I think they will have enough to win this 1-0.

RK: I didn’t fancy Sunderland to beat Arsenal but I did expect them to put a bit more effort into the game. Defensively, they were a shambles. 2-0 Palace.

Stoke v West Ham

AG: West Ham have won three in a row and it’s always difficult to make it four in the Premier League which is why I’m going for a Stoke win. 1-0.

RK: The Hammers are flying but losing Diafra Sakho to injury is a blow. Stoke are a bit indifferent but they are at home so they can get a point. 1-1

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Steven Gerrard drops contract hint with talk of leaving Liverpool

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Wants a new deal: Steven Gerrard says he will play on next season and it is up to Liverpool to decide if that will be at Anfield.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is keen to continue his career beyond this season and admits he may be forced to leave Anfield if the club fails to offer him a new deal.

Gerrard, who joined the Liver­pool Academy at the age of nine and is approaching 700 appearances in all competitions, is out of contract at his boyhood club at the end of the current campaign.

While the 34-year-old remains a pivotal player having played in all nine of the club’s Premier League matches this season, he has cast doubt on whether he will be around next term.

“I can only worry about this sea­son because I’m only contracted until May,” Gerrard said in an in­terview with the Daily Mail. “As it stands at the moment, I’m here until the end of the season and want to make the most of it. I certainly won’t be retiring this summer. I will play beyond this season.

“We will have to wait and see if that’s at Liverpool or somewhere else. That’s Liverpool’s decision. If they don’t come then I will see what’s out there.”

Gerrard also came to the defence of controversial striker Mario Balotelli, who has made an indifferent start to life at Liverpool with just two goals in 12 appear­ances and none in seven Premier League matches following his sum­mer move from AC Milan.

Among those to have questioned the Italian’s credentials is Gerrard’s old friend and team-mate Jamie Carragher, who labelled Balo­telli as a “panic buy” following the departure of Luis Suarez to Barce­lona over the summer.

Yet Gerrard said: “You have to respect Jamie’s opinion. He knows football but it’s too early to get on Mario’s back. He just needs time to score the goals he needs to prove to people he is worthy of staying here.

“I am not going to judge him after 10 games. To come in after Suarez was always going to be a big ask and he’s not feeling sorry for himself. He is working hard, doing extra shooting sessions.

“I’ve actually been impressed (with) the way he goes about his work. You hear all kinds of stories and rumours before you meet him, but he does all the work. I like the guy.”

Today Liverpool tarvel to a resur­gent Newcastle side who knocked holders Manchester City out of the League Cup in midweek.

The Toon fans have spent all season vociferously calling for Pardew’s head, and he has now asked them to get behind the team.

“If we can get a victory against Liverpool, the new players in the group are going to see the other side of Newcastle fans, when we really can make a difference,” he said.

“In the last couple of games the fans have been terrific.

“They helped us (at City) and they helped us at Tottenham (last Saturday).”

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David Silva ruled out of Manchester United clash

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Huge loss: Manchester City losing playmaker David Silva for the derby match this Sunday could be pivotal.

Manchester City midfielder David Silva will miss Sunday's derby against Manchester United and could be out of action for up to a month with a knee injury, confirms manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Silva was injured during the early stages of holders City's 2-0 League Cup defeat at home to Newcastle United on Wednesday after a clash with the Magpies' Ryan Taylor. 

"Manuel Pellegrini confirms that @21LVA will miss Sunday's game. Will be out for 3-4 weeks," City said on Twitter on Friday.

Silva is now also out of City's potentially decisive Champions League group match against CSKA Moscow and the Premier League fixture away to Queens Park Rangers.

He is also doubtful for Spain's upcoming Euro 2016 qualifier against Belarus and a friendly with Germany.

"David has a problem in his ligament," City manager Pellegrini added at a news conference on Friday.

"Maybe he will be out around three weeks so he will not be available for the derby.

"He is a very important player but I think we have a squad and we have to replace him with another player."

Midfield star Yaya Toure came off as a precaution during the Newcastle defeat due to a groin problem but Pellegrini was optimistic the Ivory Coast international would feature in the derby.

"Yaya has a small problem. We will see him on Saturday but I think he will not have any problems," the Chilean boss said.

Meanwhile Samir Nasri appears to have made a successful return to action in midweek after seven games out following groin surgery.

Premier League champions City have gone three games without a win in all competitions and could be nine points behind leaders Chelsea by the time they kick-off against United at Eastlands on Sunday if Jose Mourinho's table-toppers beat struggling QPR on Saturday.

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