MANY fans would consider this fixture to be a ‘free-hit’ for City, considering they are away to the best team in the country and probability the side that will go onto win the league title four the fourth successive season.
However, although the odds are stacked against them, there should be no such thing when it comes to a league game. Of course, Rovers do have the better squad and it would take a brave person to bet against anything other than a Hoops win. City have to remember though that they have earned the right to be playing in these fixtures, games against the best teams in the country.
If they are to progress as a club, then they have to believe that they can do more than just turn up to Tallaght and come away from Dublin with people praising their performance but with no points to show.
In the past, I would have suggested that City’s best chance of getting something from a game like this, one where they are underdogs, would have been to sit back in a defensive shape and hope that they could nick a goal from a set piece.
However, that rarely works for teams that travel to Tallaght because eventually, Rovers wear opposition sides down. The Hoops are very comfortable in possession. They will be patient in their build-up play and if they have to pass from sideways for the majority of the game.
They will be happy to do so because they know there will come a moment when an opposition player switches off and they will expose him.
Colin Healy might have a big call to make with who he gets to lead the line tonight. Ruairi Keating has been one of City’s standout players so far, but I wonder would this game be more suited to opting with Tunde Owolabi upfront. Although Keating works tirelessly for the team and brings others into play with his holdup play, he is not as quick as Owolabi and I feel the Rebel Army need pace upfront.
Rovers will play a high defensive line and Owolabi could be the man to expose that and get City up the pitch. I feel the Rovers’ defenders would be much more comfortable leaving gaps in behind were Keating to play because they know he doesn’t have the pace to get away from them. With Owolabi, he can be unpredictable and that unpredictability could worry Rovers.
City need to press Rovers high.
That's another reason I would go for Owolabi tonight. He would be able to press the Rovers players quickly and set a high tempo for the rest of his teammates.
It’s a tough ask for City in Dublin against the champions just three days after playing UCD. Players are going to be fatigued, and the last team you want to be playing against when you are tired is a side that keeps hold of possession the best in the country.
Of course, Rovers also only played on Friday but such is the depth in the squad, that they could make wholesale changes and it wouldn’t weaken them.
It’s going to be a difficult game for City but they have to go to Tallaght and be ambitious and aggressive if they are to get anything from the game.