LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: (L-R) Micah Richards, James Milner, Nigel de Jong and David Silva of Manchester City look dejected during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on March 20, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
With Tevez a late scratch with a groin injury and it being the eleventh game of a hectic 36-day period the hope was that the side could come away with a vital point from a Chelsea side with their tails up after recent positive results.
It appeared that Roberto Mancini was looking to reprise the tactics deployed for the 1-0 win at home over Chelsea earlier in the season, an approach always likely given the Mancini's history against the top sides - particularly on the road.
It was not to be though. For the majority of the game City's resolve was firm. The defensive and midfield units were tenacious and industrious, but unlike earlier in the season there was none of the support from the front three; no defending from the front and pressuring the Chelsea defence at outset. David Silva's quality of passing was missing, James Milner was more industry and creativity and Edin Dzeko, although willing was too often isolated, receiving the ball with his back to goal and in positions that did not facilitate the launch a counter-attack.
Without the effervescence of Tevez the side is undoubtedly less productive (some 60% so according to this article), it being noticeable how little the side created during the course of the game although the play of David Luiz should be commended. If indeed it is true that parties at City blocked his signing then this looks (at this early stage at least) to have been a serious misjudgement of his abilities.
As the game wore on it was clear that a 0-0 was the best outcome City would achieve. I've documented before the inability of the side to be able to strike late in games so without the early goal three points was more of a hope than a reality. The fact that the side did concede twice late should equally not necessarily be a surprise though. Whilst defensively the side has been strong - with Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott again forming a good partnership and well augmented by Nigel de Jong, the stark fact is that 41% of all goals conceded in the Premier League have been in the final 15 minutes of games. Equally, the away form is beginning to be a concern: no win in 2011 as yet and this has to be rectified before the end of the season with potentially difficult trips to Liverpool, Blackburn, Everton and Bolton to come.
The longer the game went the more determined and purposeful Chelsea became whereas it appeared City were merely trying to eke out the remaining minutes without conceding, a dangerous tactic against a side with Chelsea's goal threat and once they opening goal was conceded (from a poorly conceded free-kick) the feeling was that the chance of getting something from the game
The much-maligned international break has perhaps now come at the right time. For all the talk of the big squad it is clear Mancini favours and trusts 14 or 15 key players, which with injuries to de Jong and Adam Johnson in particular have led to an over reliance on the likes of Tevez, Silva and noticeably Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure.
With Tottenham dropping points also at the weekend the side are well positioned (even a win for Tottenham in their game in hand will not see City drop out of the top four) and the hope is that minds and bodies will come back refreshed and refocused, with the disappointment at having failed to progress past Dynamo Kiev turned into the positive of being able to sharpen the intensity on qualifying for the Champions League.