Date: 27th January 2009 at 2:26pm
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So after an enforced 10 day break, where the team have been sat licking their collective wounds after the 3-0 pezzling at Ewood Park by Allardarse`s Blackburn side, we`re back to the proverbial bread and butter (stale and out of date in our cases) of the League.

Whilst many thought we`d expect to see a host of new faces line up at the COM, the likelihood is it`s more about the player who will be absent. With talks deadlocked over his future and Mike Ashley rolling into town, Shay Given is expected to be out for the game against his much-mooted future employers as Steve Harper gets to celebrate his new deal.

The subject of Shay has been done to death, not least by ourselves. However may we wish the Leaping Leprechaun of Lifford all the best in whatever he chooses to do. A more faithful servant we haven`t seen in a long time and the heartbreak is that our Mr Consistency is set to go just half a season or so short of breaking the all time appearances record for NUFC.

As usual Mike Ashley and his cronies will no doubt stress the business impact, a five or six fold increase in return on what we paid for him at 32 years of age looks good business in his retail market eyes. However selling our best player and a symbol of someone who genuinely cares and understands the club carries more weight than the purse of silver the Barrow Boy will get off the Arabs.

That lines up Harps to come into nets, with Bassong and Coloccini liable to stay in the middle. Flanks-wise Taylor will probably deputise at right back and, dependent on whether he feels put out at having been sold down the river to the SPL, Jose Enrique or David Edgar in the left back slot.

In midfield we`re cattled. On the left, N`Zogbia has made the best use of the 10 day break by releasing a statement a day on how he wants to leave. If the lad was as persistent and committed on the pitch as he is to leaving, we`d be in Villa`s position right now. Instead we`re left with another malingering Frenchman counting down the hours until he leaves. Ginola may have been the first act but only N`Zogbia or Bernard can lay claim to the King of Gallic Crybaby Tactics title.

Both Guthrie and Butt are sidelined leaving us with Father Time (Geremi) and Prison Break`s own T-Bag (Barton) in the middle. Gutierrez and Duff remain options in CM / RM depending how Joke wants to line up his team.

Up front the likelihood is that Carroll will be dropped to accommodate the 5 man midfield with superb 6`5″ targetman Michael Owen playing up front on his own. Have I missed something here?

Bench duties are likely to be reserved for the Under 16s side.

For City it`s pretty much odds-on that our former Welsh whinger Bellamy will play and no doubt score on his debut. The excellent Wayne Bridge is also expected to come in with Nigel De Jong rounding off the City new boys set for debuts. Robinho, fresh from a trip back home to Brazil and a £300k fine, is also expected to line up in the starting XI.

Star man to watch out for however is Stephen Ireland, fresh from trading in his pink Range Rover for a more gangsta white Audi R7.