Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Saturday 28th November 2015, 1500 GMT
Manuel Pellegrini must be under immense pressure at the moment, after having lost their last two matches to Liverpool FC last weekend in the Premier League, and to Juventus in midweek in the Champions League. Also, the rumours of Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola taking over at Manchester City next season will not be particularly helpful either.
However, the Chilean manager knows that a simple win can put his team back on track from this blip, in an otherwise near-perfect season. Recent results have pushed them down to third from the first position on the Premier League table, and the Citizens will be motivated to reclaim what they will see as their rightful place at the summit.
Things are much simpler for Southampton, who seem to have created a long-term model for their coach Ronald Koeman, as the Saints look for a gradual rise up the Premier League ladder. However, the clash between these two sides signifies the ongoing fight between the two schools of thought, on how to run a football club.
Team News & Tactical Brief
These are worrying times for the Citizens, and Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini would be looking to turn things around from the two disappointing defeats. However, the Chilean has to wade his way through an infirmary full of the walking wounded, as five of his first-team players have been ruled out due to injury.
Most recent of them all is Joe Hart, who hobbled off with a hamstring strain in the midweek defeat at Juventus. The Englishman is probably the first name on any teamsheet that Pellegrini prepares at the Etihad Stadium, and has been at the club for almost a decade now. While Willy Caballero is expected to replace him, the City defence would be wary of having a rather unfamiliar face guarding their goal.
Defence seems to be the most injury-inflicted area right now though, as 75 per cent of Manchester City’s regular back-four have been ruled out due to injury. They would miss the services of club captain Vincent Kompany, his centre-half partner Eliaquim Mangala, and full-back Pablo Zabaleta.
However, there is some good news for Pellegrini, as he is set to welcome playmaker David Silva and striker Wilfried Bony back to his match-day squad for Saturday’s clash. Silva has been instrumental for Manchester City this season, liking up well with marksman Sergio Aguero, to destroy opposition defences.
His return is set to ease some pressure on the struggling midfield, where the 32-year-old Yaya Toure does not seem to be as big an influence in the centre of the park as he once was. Silva is set to resume his duties in the No. 10 role, being the creative influence in the City midfield. Bony’s return from injury would also release some pressure off Aguero, who is himself still getting back to full fitness after a long layoff.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Caballero; Kolarov, Otamendi, Demichelis, Sagna; Toure, Fernandinho; Sterling, Silva, De Bruyne; Aguero
While the Premier League has seen a lot of ups and downs for the different clubs (namely Leicester City and Chelsea FC), it has been business as usual for the Saints, as they strive to keep themselves in the top half of the table. They have built a sustainable model, which depends more on the power of the scout than on the power of the pocket to get the best players available, and that seems to be working wonders at the club.
Southampton have tasted just one defeat in their last seven Premier League matches, and would want to keep this good momentum going. However, that one defeat came last weekend against Stoke City at the St Mary’s Stadium, and manager Ronald Koeman would be looking to turn things around as quickly as possible.
The Saints have a big absentee in the form of Graziano Pelle, who is suspended for this match, as Shane Long prepares to take up the No. 9 role in place of the Italian. The Irishman has been played as an attacking midfielder by Koeman this season, but would be happy to return to his preferred position up front.
With Steven Davis behind Long, and Dusan Tadic and Saido Mane bombing down the flanks, Southampton have quite a formidable attack, who will fancy their chances against a makeshift City defence.. Also, with Victor Wanyama and Jordy Clasie playing the two reserved midfield roles in the 4-2-3-1 formation, the back-four will have ample cover from the City attackers.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Stekelenberg; Bertrand, Van Dijk, Fonte, Soares; Wanyama, Clasie; Tadic, Mane, Steven Davis; Long.
- Southampton are on a six-match unbeaten run in away matches.
- In their last five matches against Southampton, Manchester City have won both the halves.
- The Citizens have scored two or more goals in these five matches.
Player to watch out for
David Silva (Manchester City)
The ingenuity of the Spaniard in the Manchester City midfield has been sorely missed, even more so in the last two matches, and Pellegrini would be more than happy to welcome him back to the side. However, it would be interesting to see whether Silva takes much time to get back to full swing.
Manchester City 3-1 Southampton FC
Although Southampton are a good side, Manchester City would be itching to get back to winning ways in front of their home crowd, and put their season back on track. The return of Silva could help their midfield regain some of the creativeness that they have been famous for.
Blast from the past