David Silva savours contest of skill and technique
Spaniard hopes to be fit to face a Chelsea side who can match Manchester City for midfield maestros
Modern communications being what they are, few Manchester City supporters at Wembley this afternoon will need to wait for the official announcement over the booming public address system of the FA Cup semi-final line-ups. iPhones and iPads, Twitter and word of mouth will soon enough spread rumour, gossip and then confirmation of the news they particularly want to know: whether the key pair of David Silva and Sergio Aguero are fit to face Chelsea.
To lose one of the gifted Latin forwards would be a misfortune; playing without both would be potentially crippling to hopes of winning the Cup again and enabling Roberto Mancini to claim he had captured three major trophies in successive years.
Mancini and New City broke their duck in 2011 by defeating Manchester United and then Stoke at the national stadium, and followed up 12 months later with a first League title for 44 years. Silva, who hopes to have recovered from a hamstring strain suffered in victory over United last Monday night, now believes that the Cup could again prove a springboard to greater success. "I was lucky to win it in my first season and I hope we can do it again," he said. "Both games were very difficult, intense, and we won 1-0. Winning a trophy always gives you belief to go and win more titles, and with luck this year we will win the Cup and there will be a repeat and we win the Premier League next year."
The Spanish World Cup-winner is sitting in a box at the Etihad Stadium underneath two black-and-white photographs: one of Joe Mercer holding up the Cup at the old Wembley in 1969 and another featuring that team's holy trinity of Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee. In successive years from 1968 to 1970, they won the League, Cup and a double of League Cup and European Cup-Winners' Cup. Had that legacy been built upon instead of frittered away, a dynasty could have been established long before United's.
As it is, Silva is able to trot out the regular Mancini line about playing catch-up after their neighbours had 20 years' head start. "United have been a team and a club for many, many years, been building that, while we've been building for the last three years," he said. "In three years, look at the titles that we have won. So we're not doing that badly.
"We are building a team and a club and we will win many, many more titles," Silva stressed. "It's important to say that three years ago we weren't even qualifying for the Champions' League. We have qualified and let's be honest, we had two very difficult groups. We are building and we are getting there. It's something we have to clearly improve but we will get there."
In three games against Chelsea this season, City can point to two victories (including 3-2 in the Community Shield at Wembley) and an away draw. If Silva, Aguero and Carlos Tevez were to be up against Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar this time, today's game would offer further evidence for Silva's opinion that the English football he found initially tricky to adapt to is moving in the right direction: "The physical part is a characteristic of English football but I think football here is changing. The football is more technical and less physical compared to when I arrived."
Silva will again be up against some familiar faces, including Rafa Benitez, who once gave him a Valencia debut as a 16-year-old. He is closer to his countrymen Mata and Fernando Torres, and is sympathetic about the latter's struggles since moving to London. "It can happen to every player. You're not always 100 per cent, not always on top of your game. There are things that go through your head, things with your body, small injuries, you're not feeling completely together.
"But I think he's turning the corner, he seems to be back on top form and he will get back to the top where he was. He's very fast and if you underestimate him, he will hurt you. You saw it in the last game [against Sunderland] when he came on in the second half and completely changed the game, so we can't underestimate him at all."
When the pair get together for Spain internationals, however, the subject is not discussed. "It would be the last thing I'd want to talk to him about. When we're together he's trying to talk about positive things and how his family is. The last thing he needs is people always talking about having a bad time."
As Demba Ba has recovered from injury, Torres must expect to be sitting in the substitutes' seats today. And Silva will be hoping to have stretched his legs this morning with no ill effect: "If I feel I can play then I will ask to play. It really does depend on how I feel."
David Silva is an ambassador for the Anfi Group, a holiday company based in his home town of Anfi in Gran Canaria. For more information, go to: www.anfi.com
Rafa's legacy: 'My players will be much better'
Chelsea's interim manager, Rafa Benitez, goes into today's semi-final insisting that whoever succeeds him next season will inherit a fine squad – and implying that he may have improved it.
"I'm sure we will leave some good players with more experience," he said. "I cannot take credit for signing these players because they were already here, some of them very good players, but some of them are young and they'll be much better at the end of the season.
"The balance of the team is better now. The players are quite happy, quite pleased with the way we train and the things we do, and they are learning every day."
Benitez believes the improvement will show next season: "These players will be much better. They'll have more experience, will have settled down in England. They've been growing, improving and learning. Next year, add two or three players, the team will be better.
"Now it's a very good team," he added. "But still inexperience has cost us points in some games, and maybe some trophies."
Chelsea v Manchester City is on ITV today, kick-off 4pm
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