10th August 2015, Kick-Off: 2000 BST
Title contenders Manchester City take on West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Monday night, with A?49 million signing Raheem Sterling in line to make his Premier League d but for the Sky Blues
Manchester City will be hoping to put their pre-season defensive woes behind them as they prepare to begin their assault on the Premier League title when they take on Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion side on Monday night.
Manuel Pellegrini – who has just signed a new deal with the club amidst speculation regarding the possible arrival of Pep Guardiola in 2016 – will know that a good start this season would go a long way towards challenging for the top prize, particularly given the slow start by Chelsea FC.
New Manchester City signing Raheem Sterling has been in impressive form in pre-season, and will be looking to start his Premier League career with the Sky Blues on a positive note. Meanwhile, star striker Sergio AgA?ero has returned to full training, and could make an appearance in City’s opener, if only as a substitute.
Team News and Tactics
West Bromwich Albion
Baggies manager Tony Pulis will be able to hand d buts to new signings James Chester (A?8m from Hull City), James McClean (A?1.5m from Wigan Athletic) and Rickie Lambert (A?3m from Liverpool FC) when his side take on Manchester City on Monday night, but doubts remain over the availability of former City centre-back Joleon Lescott.
First-choice keeper Ben Foster remains sidelined with an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered in March this year, meaning former Wales International Boaz Myhill will continue in goal for West Brom. Meanwhile, on-loan Arsenal FC youngster Serge Gnabry will have to wait to make his Baggies bow, with his paperwork reportedly still awaiting clearance.
Pulis is likely to set up in a 4-5-1 formation, with former Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher at the base of the midfield and highly-rated England U21 international Saido Berahino leading the attack for the Baggies. From past evidence, it is likely that the former Stoke City boss will set his side up to contain Manchester City by crowding the midfield and denying Pellegrini’s side space in central areas in which they so like to operate.
The West Brom manager will be aware of Manchester City’s defensive troubles in pre-season, and is likely to counter-attack with numbers – Saido Berahino acting as the primary attacking outlet. The 22-year-old not only has the pace to get in behind the City defence, but also the quality to finish off any opportunities he might get, making him a real threat to Pellegrini’s men.
As with every Tony Pulis team, set-pieces are likely to play a major role, and the Baggies could cause problems for Pellegrini’s men if the likes of Chris Brunt and Craig Gardner amongst others are able to produce good deliveries.
Given they do not have nearly as much talent as City, Pulis’ team will have to rely heavily on their work-ethic and defensive discipline to close down spaces and thwart the likes of David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Yaya Tour , and if fit enough, Sergio AgA?ero. Meanwhile, their threat up front will be significantly more potent if they are able to create situations where they can isolate Berahino with one or two of the Manchester City defenders, who have been less than impressive in recent times.
. Possible starting line-up: Myhill; Gamboa, Olsson, Chester, Brunt (C); Fletcher, Gardner, SessA?gnon, Morrison, McClean; Berahino
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini will be without new signing Fabian Delph – who is yet to recover from a hamstring injury picked up in the Sky Blues’ tour of Australia – as well as Ga l Clichy, who is not expected to recover in time from an ankle injury.
The Chilean will, however, be able to hand A?49 million signing Raheem Sterling his Premier League d but with the club, and has confirmed that Sergio AgA?ero and David Silva are training at their maximum level, having recovered from a sickness bug. Samir Nasri remains a doubt, however, with JesA?s Navas likely to take his place in the starting lineup.
Pellegrini is likely to field a 4-2-3-1 formation with Sterling playing in the attacking three behind the striker – possibly on the left, if Navas starts – and Ivorian Wilfried Bony leading the line. David Silva will likely occupy his favoured No.10 position and will look to take up positions between the Baggies’ midfield and defensive lines to try and find the killer pass for the likes of Sterling, Bony and Navas.
The Sky Blues have often had to rely on their full-backs for width, particularly in the absence of Navas, but the addition of Sterling will now give them that dimension without necessarily having to commit defenders forward, allowing them to stretch the West Brom defence. The former Liverpool FC forward has also played up front for City, although against what will probably be a deep-lying, packed defence, there is little chance he will be able to use his pace and make runs in behind.
A target-man like Bony could prove to be vital in what is sure to be a physical contest against Pulis’ men, as will the midfield double-pivot of Fernandinho and Yaya Tour . City can themselves be a threat from set-pieces, given the presence of Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala to add to the aforementioned list of players.
Having shipped four goals against German side Stuttgart in their final friendly, however, their defence is a clear area of concern, and the likes of Berahino could cause real problems if given a chance to run at the back four. As such, Fernandinho could play a crucial role in shielding the defence.
Possible starting line-up: Hart; Sagna, Kompany (C), Mangala, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Tour ; Sterling, Silva, Navas; Bony
- Manchester City have won their last seven league meetings against West Bromwich Albion, netting 19 goals and conceding just 5.
- Each of the last five Premier League champions have kicked off their season on a Monday night.
- West Bromwich Albion have not won a game in August since their 3-0 victory over Liverpool FC in 2012.
- Manchester City have won five of their last six games on the opening day of the Premier League.
- Manchester City have won four of their last five games against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.
Player to watch out for
The country’s eyes will firmly be on the diminutive young attacker as the Citizens take on West Brom at the Hawthorns on Monday. Having completed his protracted A?49 million move from Liverpool FC earlier this summer, the England international has been amongst Manchester City’s best players during pre-season, and will be looking to continue his form as the season kicks off.
On the evidence of his performances so far, Sterling is a perfect match for City, seemingly compatible with the likes of Silva, Nasri, Tour and just as capable of playing the silky football Pellegrini’s men have become famous for. The 20-year-old will be looking to announce himself in style, and it would not be surprising if he finds himself on the scoresheet.
West Bromwich Albion 1 – 3 Manchester City
Manuel Pellegrini will stress the importance of getting the season off to a good start, and City have generally been good in the opening fixture over recent seasons. The Sky Blues should have too much quality and guile for Tony Pulis’ men, and an away win is on the cards on Monday.
Blast from the past