Belfast Telegraph

Capital One Cup Everton v Man City: Otamendi calls on City to toughen up in fight for silver

By Mark Ogden

Nicolas Otamendi can pull off the look of a menacing centre-half without too much effort.

The Manchester City defender has the haircut of an American GI, a beard which could earn him a walk-on part in Pirates of the Caribbean and more tattoos than Robert De Niro in Cape Fear, so it is little surprise that he greets the mention of referees with a grin and a shrug.

"I always treat referees as well as I can and with respect," said Otamendi. "I think it (appearance) can be a factor with officials, depending on your personality and how you play, but yes, the beard and the tattoos help the aggressive image."

Otamendi, a £31.7m summer signing from Valencia, travels to Goodison Park for tonight's Capital One Cup semi-final, first leg against Everton having racked up five bookings in 22 appearances for Manuel Pellegrini's team, but in the absence of City's injured captain, Vincent Kompany, the Argentine's grit and determination has helped the team negotiate a testing run of fixtures.

The 27-year-old's tussle with Everton striker Romelu Lukaku this evening is likely to be a key battle which will decide the outcome of the tie, but Otamendi insists he has more to his game than mere physical intimidation.

"What excites me about this league is the physical aspect," said Otamendi. "You are playing with and against top players, but they are also very physical. When I am defending, one of the things that is crucial for me is anticipating the play. You need to make sure you find the best option to stop these players.

"A player like Lukaku has great qualities. You have to make sure you find a way of stopping his ability, but while the beard and tattoos may make me more fearsome, I also try to be a commanding, ball-winning centre-half."

Kompany's prolonged absence due to injury has destabilised Pellegrini's back four and Otamendi has shared criticism over the club's defensive failings with Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis. But he admits criticism comes with the territory and nobody should be immune to it.

"No defender likes to concede goals or receive criticism," Otamendi said. "We have all been subjected to some criticism at some point this season, but any team would miss Vinny. He is a top player, he is aggressive on the pitch and he has been a big loss for us.

"But Mangala, me, Demichelis and Kompany all have to learn from the errors that we make. It is not specific to one individual. There is no such thing as a perfect centre-back, and sometimes, when you let a goal in, it is nobody's fault, especially if the other team has scored a good one.

"We have strengthened our team and have top-class players, so we should expect to win at least one trophy. Everton will be a difficult tie, but we believe we can go through to the final.

"We have lacked consistency recently, but I feel we are growing game by game and that is the objective."

Silverware and glory may even see Otamendi drop the tough-as-teak persona and smile on the pitch as much as he does off it.

Belfast Telegraph


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