Preview: Pompey (Away)

Our game at Fratton Park tomorrow, the latest televised headline waiting to happen, should prove another test as to if we've really turned the corner that the early season results suggest. Four successive wins, albeit one a friendly, no goals conceded and some steady if not spectacular performances mean expectations are understandably rising.

Blackburn away is a fixture we've regularly slipped up in, yet we dealt with their aerial bombardment and ground out three points. Wolves looked like it might end up a rugby score, only for us to take our foot off the gas and ride our luck to edge a game that we may have previously threw away. At Palace on Thursday we just about dealt with their early pressure before upping the ante. The signs are certainly encouraging.

In the past, Pompey have proved a very good home side. Whether they can continue that with Paul Hart at the helm will be revealed in due course, but it wouldn't be too disrespectful to suggest that with the departures their fans have seen since winning the FA Cup the season before last, survival rather than mid-table comfort might be more realistic. Everything points towards an away win, which is always something for us Blues to worry about!

Since beating Cardiff at Wembley the club have lost pretty much an entire starting eleven. Glen Johnson has moved to Liverpool, Sol Campbell, perhaps more surprisingly, to Notts County, Sylvain Distin to Everton, Lassana Diarra to Real Madrid, Sully Muntari to Inter Milan, Pedro Mendes to Rangers, Sean Davis to Bolton, and perhaps most key, goalscorers Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe both returning to Spurs. Losing players of that ilk, not to mention their manager, would undoubtedly have a huge impact on any club. Those departures may have brought in the best part of £85m, but where that money's gone will no doubt leave some people stood scratching their heads.

There has been, despite weeks of uncertainty over the credentials of new owner Sulaiman Al Fahim, some positive news in the past few days for the club however, with a beefing-up of a squad which had appeared on its last legs. Ex-Blue Michael Brown has joined from Wigan, he'll no doubt add a bid of steel to their midfield. Tommy Smith has signed from Watford, Kevin Boateng from Spurs, aswell as Aruna Dindane and Jamie O'Hara on loan deals. They do appear to now have some sort of a side, and a win for us perhaps shouldn't be seen as a certainty.

I'm not entirely sure how they'll line up. I had anticipated them to pack the midfield, but reports seem to suggest that newboys O'Hara and Boateng haven't been registered in time to play. James obviously in goal, perhaps with Aaron Mokoena moving back into the centre of defence alongside Younnes Kaboul in light of their captain's departure. Mullins probably likely to continue, and new signing Brown could make his debut. The impressive Frederic Piquionne, i'd guess, will start upfront with Smith, with Kranjcar and Utaka wide. Finnan, Diop & Hreidarsson are all out injured.

I can't imagine we'll be significantly changed from our midweek win at Selhurst Park. The decision to go with our strongest eleven for that game proved the right one on the night, we'll see if there are any effects of that decision tomorrow. Most played well, however, and i expect us to line up with at most one change. The starting eleven pretty much picks itself at present, the only area i'd consider making a switch would be at right-back. Micah Richards again looked off the pace and we can't afford to give Kranjcar too much time on the ball. I'd fancy Zabaleta to get at the player a bit more than Micah. Pablo's no-nonsense approach could perhaps be what's needed.

If we knock the ball around how we know we can then we should be able to win this one, but given how much Palace tested us midweek we might have to start the game a bit brighter. Pompey under Hart perhaps aren't the attacking outfit they were previously, but they'll be up for a scrap, especially in the middle of the park, and will test us at set-pieces. New arrival Piquionne looks comfortable in possession and our two new centre-halves will need to remain switched on. Given our form, and their hurried cobbling together of a side, we should get three points. I expect us to win, but it might not be pretty. Going to these sorts of places and winning will be a good indicator of how much we're progressing, because too often in the past we've gone to the likes of Pompey and been a bloody shambles!

Possible teams:
Pompey: James, Wilson, Belhadj, Kaboul, Mokoena, Mullins, Utatka, Brown, Smith, Piquionne, Kranjcar

City: Given, Zabaleta, Bridge, Toure, Lescott, Barry, SWP, Ireland, Tevez, Adebayor, Robinho

Prediction: Pompey 0 City 2

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