15:00 (BST), Saturday 21st October, Etihad Stadium (Manchester, England)
With only Everton blotting their immaculate record so far, Pep Guardiola is definitely the cat who got the cream and his Manchester City side are purring along nicely. With a staggering seventeen goals in their last three home games in the league, complacency could well be the Citizens’ biggest threat. It was at the Etihad where City failed to beat Everton but that was much earlier in the season and they now look to have found their groove.
Sean Dyche’s team love to do a bit of defending. With only six goals conceded in their opening eight games, only the three teams at the top of the table boast a better record. Having already faced Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton away from home, the Clarets are not afraid to travel anymore and have eight points to show for it. They’ll most probably need to defend again this weekend but Dyche’s side have nothing to lose and have already gained so much.
Last Time Out
Manchester City 2-1 Napoli (Champions League)
A blistering start from City saw them build a two-goal lead within a 13 minute period which proved to be unlucky for the Italian side. Despite the fact that Pep Guardiola used the same starting lineup he deployed against Stoke at the weekend, his team were full of energy from the first whistle.
With pace in attack and Kevin De Bruyne again pulling the strings from midfield, City’s defenders were the real stars of this game as the free-scoring Italian leaders struggled to convert any pressure they applied. A penalty save from Ederson and some heroic defending from John Stones ensured that it’s nine points out of nine at the halfway stage of the group F schedule.
Burnley 1-1 West Ham (Premier League)
In a game that will be remembered mainly for an act of madness from Andy Carroll that saw him receive two yellow cards within two minutes, there was a good game of football lurking behind the headlines. A keenly fought opening to the contest by both sides, it was West Ham who scored first: Michail Antonio’s 19th-minute goal coming courtesy of an unforced error from Ben Mee when the defender misread the flight of the ball.
Burnley were always in the game, though, and, after Carroll had returned back to his dressing room, the Clarets continued to apply pressure. With Joe Hart lucky not to concede a penalty for a foul on Chris Wood, Burnley seemed to be proving the old adage about it being harder to beat a team of ten men. However, Wood finally found the net to take a point from the game for his new club.
Manchester City Lineup
Defenders Benjamin Mendy (knee) and Vincent Kompany (calf) are the only players who will miss the game through injury with Sergio Agüero declared fit again.
Pep Guardiola is likely to make some changes to his side in a bid to add fresh legs, especially in attack where they will need to break down a well organised Burnley defence. He could also revert to a 3-5-2 formation with Burnley expected to play a lone striker and a midfield five.
Tom Heaton (shoulder), Jon Walters (knee), Dean Marney (knee) and Nahki Wells (ankle) will all again miss out again for Burnley.
With no new injury concerns, Dyche could well be tempted to use the same starting eleven for a fifth consecutive game that has been serving him so well.
Key Battle: Gabriel Jesus vs James Tarkowski
With Sergio Aguero back in contention for a starting berth, the blossoming partnership between City’s two strikers could again be rekindled. Both forwards have six goals each in the league, albeit with Aguero having played one less game. However, Gabriel Jesus is a young player in fine form with three goals in his last two games and his pace will be vital in prising open the Clarets back-line. In addition, it’s now almost a year since Jesus last found himself on the losing team for either City or Brazil, scoring 22 goals from the combined 32 games.
While many believed Ben Mee would be the player to shoulder most of the responsibility following Michael Keane’s exit, James Tarkowski has overshadowed his defensive partner during the opening two months. With the most clearances of any Premiership player (77) and having won the second most aerial challenges (42) in the league, Tarkowski could again have his work cut out this weekend. He’s proved himself up to the task so far.
Truth or Self-Edifying Sentiments
After the victory over Napoli on Wednesday evening, both managers were quick to heap praise on the opposition. Amongst other things, Pep Guardiola admitted that “We faced one of the best sides I faced in my career, probably the best!” This is high praise indeed considering all of the big matches and teams of proven quality that he has faced over the years.
While Guardiola is not often mentioned in the same breath as the phrase ‘mind games’, this compliment is so great that it makes you wonder what motivated the Catalan to lavish this praise on an undoubtedly good side. But the best team from the last decade?
Pass and Press
Not only have Burnley made some important additions to their squad this season in the shape of Chris Wood and Jack Cork, they’ve also seen the emergence of Steven Defour as a key player. Following a year on the fringes of the team following his transfer from Anderlecht for what was then a club record £8m fee, the Belgium midfielder has become arguably Sean Dyche’s most important player.
Having improved his fitness dramatically since his arrival, Defour plays with high energy levels that see him quickly and continuously pressing the opposition. Added to the technical ability which saw Dyche set a new club record to acquire his services, Defour has become the embodiment of the way Burnley approach the game.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Burnley
For all of the defensive praise lavished upon them, Burnley are also a more dangerous attacking team than they were last year. It’s their tightly rehearsed organisation which will prove the biggest problem for City though, a team who have found goals easy to come by of late. A tough midweek game for City could also tip the balance in the direction of the Clarets but Guardiola’s side should take all three points with slightly fewer goals than their fans are becoming accustomed to.
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