15:00 KO (BST); Saturday 16th September; Vicarage Road (Watford, England)
With two wins and two draws, the Hornets head into this weekend unbeaten in the Premier League -and deservedly so after a string of impressive performances, which have registered three successive clean sheets along the way.
With Marco Silva’s forte for a strong home record, another home win may not be outside the realm of possibility and would also see the Hornets top the table for at least a day, which is more than any of their fans would have dared to dream when they were watching Walter Mazzarri’s final game in charge earlier this summer.
Pep Guardiola’s side has become the most expensive team in the Premier League after a summer spent splashing the cash to re-build what was an ageing squad.
City have also seen themselves installed by the bookmakers as favourites to lift the title this season after thrashing their close rivals 5-0 last weekend.
Facing a team that have not beaten them since 1989, Watford will provide a much sterner test than they did during City’s 5-0 win on the final day of last season.
Last time out
Southampton 0 – 2 WATFORD [Premier League]
Yet another well-rounded display from Watford saw them completely dominate the game against a cultured set of Southampton players.
A mixture of skill and tenacity provided the backbone in a rampant Watford outing which left their hosts reeling.
From Andre Gray ploughing his unsung role running the channels and stretching the opposition’s defence to the guile of Nathaniel Chalobah, a player who’s looking an absolute bargain for £5m this summer, Watford oozed class as they moved the ball up the pitch.
Once again, however, it was Abdoulaye Doucouré who ran the Watford show with a masterful display from midfield, clocking up a 90% passing accuracy as the player who touched the ball more than any other on the field.
With a goal to round off his imperious performance, it’s the Frenchman’s ability to work the ball from tight positions and set an attack in motion from unlikely scenarios which is proving to be hugely influential for the Hornets in not just this game but this season.
Feyenoord 0 – 4 MANCHESTER CITY [Champions League]
City made comfortable work of dispatching a poor Dutch side in Rotterdam. John Stones marked his return to the starting XI with two unexpected goals for his team but he was rarely needed at the other end of the pitch for City.
With the tone of the game set in the 10th minute when Sergio Agüero put his side two up, this proved to be more of a formality than a test for the Citizens.
Good news came for City in the shape of Ederson Moraes, who was deemed fit to start the match in goal following his facial injury suffered at the boot of Sadio Mané.
There was also further joy to be found by looking over the bench with Ilkay Gündogan edging ever closer to a return to action, and the one-sided nature of the action will have left City fans with a sweet taste on their travels back to England.
With Miguel Britos suspended and Younes Kaboul (leg), Craig Cathcart (knee), Sebastian Prödl (hamstring) and Mauro Zárate (fitness) all unavailable, Silva again faces a quandary in naming his defensive lineup, although Kiko Femenia is expected to be available after being rushed to hospital with a head injury he sustained in last weeks’ game against the Saints.
Manchester City Lineup
Vincent Kompany’s calf injury is the only expected blip on an otherwise clean sheet of health for City. Having fielded a strong lineup in Holland on Wednesday evening, Guardiola could well bring several fresh faces into his starting XI with the likes of Leroy Sané, Yaya Touré and Raheem Sterling hoping for a rare Premier League start in this current campaign.
Key Battle: Richarlison vs Nicolás Otamendi
A prodigal Brazilian talent with a promising future ahead of him, Richarlison is already making himself at home in England.
With a Premier League goal and an assist already to his name, the 20-year-old talent has settled straight into life at Watford after joining the club from Fluminense just a few short weeks ago.
As the youngest Brazilian to move into the Premier League, he has not been overawed by his illustrious opponents and will relish the challenge of enhancing his burgeoning reputation with another dazzling display, this time against the title favourites.
With City’s defence looking much improved upon last season’s offerings, there still appears to be several vulnerabilities for their opposition to target. While Benjamin Mendy has already been caught out of position several times, exposing his central defenders, Otamendi could well prove to be the weakest link at the back.
With the Argentine lucky to stay on the pitch in during the early exchanges against Liverpool last week, he will again face an explosively quick attack and how he reacts to the test this week could help determine his team’s fortunes.
Belief and resilience
One of the first things that Marco Silva set out to do at Hull in January was to supply his new team with a genuine sense of belief in their own abilities.
The psychological aspect of his squad’s make-up is an important aspect for the Portuguese manager, used as a fundamental building block in which to construct how his team performs on the pitch.
Having already shown a desire to get back into the game in their opening fixture against Liverpool, the fact they salvaged a draw from the dying moments of that game will provide much credibility to their belief.
While City are also showing signs they have a greater mental toughness than last season when they often settled for draws rather than pushed for a win, this game should be set to be competitive until the final whistle is blown.
With only a short trip home from a game that City barely needed to step out of first gear, it would appear that the Citizens will not be greatly affected by their midweek exploits of an extra game.
There’s also the fact that Guardiola has many high-profile internationals at his beck and call, players who would start in most other Premier League sides and he can use to rotate and maintain a high energy level within his team.
For many of the top players, it will be more of a mental hangover they need to overcome. With the Champions League seen as the pinnacle competition in this season’s campaign, players will either need to refocus back to league matters or hide the frustration at not taking part in Wednesday’s glitzy fixture.
With less time to prepare for this game than their counterparts, City’s players will need to adapt quickly back into the Premier League against a team who will gun for them from kick-off.
PREDICTION: Watford 2 – 2 Manchester City
A quick and entertaining game should be on the cards in this fixture with both teams possessing fast and direct wingers to attack with.
With little expected from this fixture by most people other than an away win, Watford will have a free shot to take down their expensive opponents.
This will see them play with freedom and motivation, a combination which, paired with some tiring City legs in the second half, could see the Hornets take a point from this match.
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