12:30 KO (BST); Saturday 26th August; Vitality Stadium (Bournemouth, England)
It’s sometimes hard to remember that Bournemouth are entering only the third season of top-flight football in the club’s entire history. Having almost been forced out the league by the FA due to administration problems nine years ago, Bournemouth fans have since been on a fairy-tale adventure.
However, a slow start and an upcoming fixture against one of the title favourites is slowly bringing a sense of realism back to Eddie Howe’s side.
In contrast, Pep Guardiola is a manager well-acquainted with the pressures of expectation. Having finished last season with little to show for his debut in the Premiership, the pressure on his side to deliver has slowly been increased, more-so by the fact that many people make them favourites to top the table at Guardiola’s second time of trying.
How they rise to these levels of expectation are yet to be seen, but in facing a team that has never beaten them in any competition, City will be expected to ease past Bournemouth this weekend and move a small step closer to realising their potential.
LAST TIME OUT
Birmingham City 1 – 2 Bournemouth (EFL Cup – Second round)
Having made eight changes in the starting eleven from the team who lost to Watford last weekend, Eddie Howe still fielded a strong team that consisted of players who all featured regularly in the first team last season.
It was a performance underlined by a resilience which saw the Cherries fight back from a goal down and Howe will have been especially heartened by an impressive second-half from Bournemouth.
Jermain Defoe made his first competitive start for the Cherries since his free transfer this summer. He was a source of quality throughout this game, making intelligent runs which opened space for his team mates.
Despite not getting on the scoresheet, Defoe showed that he can still offer something on the pitch for the Cherries and looked hungry to impress and establish himself further into his new managers thinking, while playing the full 90 minutes will undoubtedly improve his match sharpness for future weeks. Elsewhere, Ryan Fraser and Lewis Cook both had standout performances and proved the main difference between these two sides.
MANCHESTER CITY 1 – 1 Everton (Premiership)
Wayne Rooney captured many of the headlines, however, it was a quietly impressive team performance from City who were given a tough examination on Monday evening. Playing the second-half with only 10 men following Kyle Walker’s harsh sending off, City showed a great fighting spirit to salvage a draw from a team looking to prove themselves.
After last season’s much maligned defensive performances and a huge investment in this area of the pitch during the summer, City’s star player against Everton would have been a welcome surprise for Guardiola.
Nicolás Otamendi gave a tireless display, winning 7 aerial challenges – more than double any of his team mates, along with six clearances that helped City stay solid at the back, however, he also tried to provide an attacking threat which saw him take three shots on goal during the game, two of which were on target and required Jordan Pickford to make saves. Along with Vincent Kompany, Otamendi is quickly establishing his importance for City’s defensive aspects this season.
Simon Francis (hamstring) Junior Stanislas (groin) and Callum Wilson (knee) will all be missing this weekend. Despite Lewis Cook’s assertions for a place in the starting eleven, Howe is likely to begin with a more defensively minded midfield partnership, while Afobe is expected to begin in attack after being rested during the midweek cup game.
Manchester City Lineup
Kyle Walker faces a one-match suspension following his two yellow cards last weekend, with Danilo the most likely player to take his place in the team. Benjamin Mendy (thigh) Ilkay Gündogan (knee) and Fabian Delph (knock) will also not feature while Raheem Sterling may force his way into consideration ahead of Gabriel Jesus who has so far had a relatively quiet start to the league.
Key Battle: Ryan Fraser vs Leroy Sané
Ryan Fraser has had a solid start on the wing for Bournemouth despite the relatively poor start to the season by the Cherries. Having slowly asserted himself in the team last season, the Scottish winger has begun this campaign where he left off, earning himself an international call-up this week as part reward for his efforts.
With a goal and an assist against Birmingham, he will have fresh-found confidence heading into this game.
The player most likely to be going head-to-head with Fraser down City’s left wing will be Sané with Danilo used on the opposite flank as cover for the missing Walker. Sané has been re-positioned in the City team by Guardiola this year, asked to perform more defensive duties than he did in last season’s three-pronged attacking formation.
Having featured here for City in pre-season, it appears Sané is still adjusting to his new role following his loose pass against Everton which led to Rooney’s opening goal of the game.
One of the secrets to Bournemouth’s success in recent years has been down to the attitude and application shown by their squad of players. Being well organised and familiar with their own individual roles has certainly contributed, however, the intensity of their performances has helped to see them overcome their opposition on many occasions.
Having lost their two opening games of this season without registering a goal, the lack of creativity and attacking intensity is a worrying sign for Cherries fans. An improved second-half performance against Birmingham in the EFL Cup will help to provide an injection of confidence into Howe’s side, but they will need to ensure that the basics which propelled them up the divisions and into the top half of the Premiership are evident this weekend against a ruthless City side who will be looking to make a statement of their own.
New season, same failings?
City showed great mentality to earn a battling draw against Everton, something that was missing from the team in the latter parts of Guardiola’s first season in charge at the club. Another factor in many of City’s dropped points last year was their inability to turn possession and dominance of a game into the goals needed to deliver victory.
Guardiola has gone some way towards addressing this issue by switching to a formation that has two strikers at the spearhead of his team’s attack. With both Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus on the pitch together, there should theoretically be more chances converted when his team crank up the pressure on the opposition.
With his team often camped in the opponents half of the field this leaves less space for the forwards to manoeuvre, something which Jesus in particular used to his advantage in previous games last season and will thus have to adapt. Without breaking at defences with speed, City’s forwards will need to show more guile in their approach to scoring as well as being more clinical when opportunities inevitably present themselves.
PREDICTION: Bournemouth 0 – 3 Manchester City
Bournemouth’s poor start to the season appears set to continue with Pep’s City slickers arriving in town just after noon on Saturday. Eddie Howe deserves much praise for his willingness to play an open and technical style of football, however, this could prove to be their undoing on this occasion, especially considering City’s habit of tearing apart teams at the lower end of the table.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?