Tigers braced for backlash but resolved not to be star-struck

STEVE BRUCE: "We are playing one of the biggest clubs in Europe."
STEVE BRUCE: "We are playing one of the biggest clubs in Europe."
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Sone Aluko has warned Manchester City and the rest of the Premier League that Hull do not intend to be anybody’s “whipping boys”.

The Tigers face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium this lunchtime, another testing away trip following their season opener at Chelsea.

Hull lost that match 2-0 but responded by defeating Norwich with 10 men for their first top-flight win since promotion.

Manuel Pellegrini’s title hopefuls will be expected to steamroller their opponents – partially in response to a shock defeat at Cardiff last weekend – but Aluko does not accept that is a formality.

Indeed, the former Rangers forward feels any team would be wrong to under-estimate Hull this season.

“If they do, then they won’t do it for long,” said Aluko. “In this league, everybody gets watched, scrutinised and the managers do their homework.

“We always try to play football, teams will eventually see that. A lot of people said Hull will definitely go back down, like we’ll be whipping boys, but I think people will be surprised.

“There aren’t many deficiencies in that City squad but I’m sure the manager has a game-plan for us to work on. We can’t follow Cardiff’s plans so to speak, we have different players, so we have to have our own game-plan.

“We won’t be star-struck at all. If you go there star-struck you’ll definitely lose.

“They won’t want to lose to two newly promoted teams but the Cardiff result gives us confidence it can be done.”

Bruce echoed Aluko’s sentiments, reiterating that Hull would need to play an active role in the game, rather than just park 10 men behind the ball.

He also took some succour from Cardiff’s efforts, but realises a City “backlash” to their 3-2 defeat is equally possible.

“We are going to have to play well because we are playing one of the big, big teams in Europe,” said Bruce.

“First and foremost, you have to defend very, very well but the big thing for us is to take part in the game and pose a few problems if we can.

“All credit to Cardiff, they’ve shown there is light at the end of the tunnel for all of us.

“Manchester City didn’t play too badly on the day, they were still very impressive.

“But we expect a backlash because that’s what makes a really good player. They’ll be desperately disappointed with how they lost that game.”

Hull have interesting memories of trips to Manchester City, which was the scene of Phil Brown’s infamous on-field half-time team-talk in 2008 – as well as Jimmy Bullard’s comic re-enactment the following year.

Reminded of those occasions, Bruce suggested he had no intention of adding a third act.

“I don’t think I’ll be doing my team talk on the pitch and, thankfully, I don’t have a Jimmy Bullard to take the mickey out of me,” he said. “I can’t see it. Let’s hope we can do our talking on the pitch, with what the team gets up to rather than the antics of the manager.”

Striker Yannick Sagbo, sent off for an apparent head-butt at Norwich, is the only confirmed absentee for the Tigers, who hope to have Republic of Ireland midfielder Stephen Quinn back after hamstring trouble.

Manchester City, however, fear captain Vincent Kompany could be sidelined for up to six weeks with his groin injury.

The influential defender was ruled out for at least a month after limping out of City’s season-opening Premier League win against Newcastle on August 19.

Kompany has said he hopes to return inside a month but manager Manuel Pellegrini has warned he will not be rushed.

On the positive side, fellow central defender Matija Nastasic is fit to start against Hull.

Having only just recovered from an ankle injury, the Serbian was an unused substitute in last Sunday’s defeat at Cardiff while midfielder Javi Garcia filled in.

Pellegrini said: “I think that Javi didn’t do bad but he normally plays in midfield. It is Nastasic’s position so I think it is better for the team.”

The injuries to Kompany and Nastasic, as well as another to Micah Richards, have led to increased speculation that City could sign another defender before Monday night’s transfer deadline.

Pellegrini is anxious to get back to winning ways and said: “I don’t need to lose a game with Cardiff to know about the Premier League.

“In football – I know perfectly – it is very difficult in some moments to defend set-pieces.

“It was a bad game that way but we must improve in the next game because, in every league, it is a very important thing.

“I saw Hull’s first two games in the Premier League. I thought they played well against Chelsea, especially in the second half.

“I am sure we will have a very difficult team here, also defending well and trying to counter-attack.

“We will have to play a very good game if we want to win.”