Premier League 18/19: Manchester City vs Huddersfield Town – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Premier League champions play host to Huddersfield Town at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday in their first home game of the 2018/19 season.
13:30 BST, Sunday 19th August, Etihad Stadium, Sky Sports Main Event
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City will welcome Huddersfield Town to the Etihad Stadium for their first home game of the new campaign.
The champions began their title defence with a convincing win over Arsenal in London last Sunday, while David Wager’s side were left feeling deflated after a 3-0 home defeat by Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea.
Huddersfield were favourites to make an instant return to the Championship last time out, but they deservedly held their own and comfortably survived, while City romped to a record-setting title.
The Terriers frustrated Guardiola’s side last season and took a point from one of the two fixtures, narrowly losing 2-1 in the other.
Last Time Out
Arsenal 0-2 Manchester City (Premier League)
Unai Emery’s tenure at Arsenal got off to a losing start when City ran out comfortable 2-0 winners at Emirates Stadium.
Having signed Riyad Mahrez over the summer, and toying with different shapes and formation throughout pre-season, there was an element of uncertainty over Guardiola’s approach to the campaign opener.
City showcased their strength in depth, though, when last season regulars Nicolas Otamendi, Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane were all named on the bench.
Fine footwork and a fierce shot from Raheem Sterling gave City the lead after only fourteen minutes as the favourites quickly asserted their authority.
A Petr Cech double save stopped Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte from doubling the lead while Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was living off scraps at the other end.
City doubled their lead when the impressive Benjamin Mendy picked out Bernardo Silva who fired home from inside the penalty. area.
Huddersfield Town 0-3 Chelsea (Premier League)
Chelsea, under new management in Maurizio Sarri, struggled throughout pre-season and their credentials heading into the new campaign had taken a hit.
The Blues were unfazed in West Yorkshire, though, as they hit three past a lacklustre Huddersfield.
Sarri was missing the likes of Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud as they build match fitness after a lengthy World Cup campaign, but his side more than managed without them.
A rare strike from N’Golo Kante got Chelsea on their way on 34 minutes before new signing Jorginho doubled the lead from the spot on the stroke of half time.
Chelsea were in control after the break and Pedro sealed the win with a calm finish from a Hazard through ball with ten minutes to play.
Manchester City Lineup
City’s depth in quality and talent is so deep that Guardiola now has two players for every position, each man as capable as the last.
The Spaniard, though, was hit with news in midweek that star playmaker Kevin De Bruyne is likely to face a spell on the sidelines after picking up a knee injury. The Belgian’s absence could mean that Ilkay Gundogan enjoys a longer run in the team.
Leroy Sane started the win over Arsenal from the bench and Guardiola could rotate his wide options with Mahrez dropping to the bench.
City also now have four fully fit centre backs to pick from, with Argentine Otamendi pushing for a recall in defence. Bernardo Silva could feature in the number ten slot once more after impressing at Arsenal though Guardiola also has David Silva – who wasn’t in the matchday squad last weekend – to return.
Huddersfield Town Lineup
Summer signing Ben Hamer started the defeat to Chelsea though he and Jonas Lossl are expected to battle it out for the number one shirt throughout the season.
Manager Wagner is eager to try to enforce a fluid 3-5-2 system, though a visit to the free-scoring champions may see Chris Lowe and Florent Hadergjonaj spending much more time defending than going forward in a reverted 5-3-2.
New recruit Adama Diakhaby was a substitute last weekend, replacing Lowe in the second period, though Wagner may look to use his pace in counter-attacking situations with Alex Pritchard the likely dropout.
Key Battle: Raheem Sterling vs Chris Lowe
With City carrying so much threat in multiple areas, it is hard for opposing defences to know where to focus their attention and efforts.
Raheem Sterling, though, was a thorn in the Arsenal backline last weekend and the winger will hope to feature from the beginning once more against the Terriers.
In Wagner’s new system, Lowe is afforded more scope to get forward and join attacks. Against a possession-dominant side, though, the German will have his hands full keeping track of the fluid, inter-changing forward players.
Should the Englishman get the nod to start, Lowe and the rest of the Huddersfield defence will expect to be on the back foot from the off.
Tougher than expected for City
When these two sides met last season, few expected Huddersfield to limit free-scoring City to only two goals over two matches.
A dogged defensive display saw Wagner’s side claim an unlikely point in this fixture at the end of the last campaign, and there is nothing to suggest that they couldn’t do it again.
Guardiola has openly discussed new ways he and his backroom team intend to approach matches against sides that will sit back and defend against them, and Sunday will probably be the first chance we get to see what they have come up with.
Huddersfield will know anything more than a point at the Etihad is an unlikely outcome, so goal difference preservation may take priority, which could see City score fewer than many expect.
What can Huddersfield hope for?
‘Damage limitation’ was the theme for most visiting sides to the Etihad last season. Teams in the lower reaches of the league table perhaps realised that trying to take the game to City would only end in disaster and would be worse than just defending for 90 minutes.
The light blue train shows no signs of slowing down this season, either, so it may be Groundhog Day for much of the campaign.
Come May, Town’s season won’t be judged on performances against any of the league’s top six, though goal difference is always worth an extra point after 38 games, so Wagner will be cautious of the scoreline.
The on-paper advantage of playing such sides this early in the season, though, is that there is still rust to get rid off and new players to bed in. If Huddersfield can counter effectively, then they may ask the City defence a few questions.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-0 Huddersfield Town
The possession stats will lean heavily in the home side’s favour and Town can strap themselves in for a long afternoon of defending. Wagner’s side have held City before, though, and they must do the same again here.
City will probably have to be patient and without Kevin De Bruyne’s eye it may take a while for them to break through, but once they do, it’ll be plain sailing. 3-0.
If you want to read more football content, make sure you follow us on Twitter @realsportgoals