Manchester City will be looking to jump to the top of the table when they visit Vicarage Road to take on Watford on Saturday
League football resumes this weekend, and it’s Gameweek 5 in the Premier League. In on of Saturday’s afternoon kick-off, Manchester City will aim to extend their unbeaten start to the season when they meet Watford, who are yet to be defeated this term as well, at Vicarage Road, with a chance to become the new league leaders.
The hosts, as iterated earlier, are unbeaten after their first four games, fifth in the table with eight points. Life under Marco Silva has started off smoothly for the Hornets, who present a more solid look at the back while being more menacing up front. They were shock 2-0 victors at Southampton in their last outing.
Manchester City, on the other hand, have been imperious at the start of this season, with three wins and a draw in the league, in addition to handing a 4-0 thrashing to Feyenoord in their Champions League curtain raiser on Wednesday. Their last Premier League result was a 5-0 rout of Liverpool at Etihad.
The corresponding fixture last season ended in the exact same score in favour of City, with Fernandinho, Gabriel Jesus, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero (twice) all finding the back of the net. Ahead of their latest meeting on Saturday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Marco Silva has a number of personnel availability issues to deal with ahead of the visit of Manchester City on Saturday. In fact, the Watford boss could have as many as seven major absentees from his matchday squad due to suspension and fitness issues.
Defence is the worst hit area with five key first-team players unavailable. Miguel Britos serves the second of his three-match ban after being sent off against Brighton. Craig Cathcart (knee), Sebastian Prodl, Younes Kaboul (both hamstring) and Tommy Hoban (cruciate ligament) are all nursing short-to-long-term injury.
Up front, Roberto Pereyra (groin) and Mauro Zarate (cruciate ligament) are the men who will not play any part on Saturday. However, Kiko Femenia is available after recovering from a head injury, and is in contention to start ahead of Daryl Janmaat again.
The onus, though, will be on summer signings of Andre Gray, Richarlison and Andre Carrillo to attack a City defence that has looked vulnerable despite not conceding a single goal post the international break.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Gomes; Femenia, Mariappa, Kabasele, Holebas; Doucoure, Chalobah; Carrillo, Cleverley, Richarlison; Gray
Unlike his counterpart in the Watford dugout, Pep Guardiola does not have many injury concerns ahead of the visit to Vicarage Road on Saturday. In fact, the Manchester City boss has Vincent Kompany the only absentee from his squad, with the club captain recovering from a calf injury.
In the absence of the Belgian defender, Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones are likely to continue as the central defensive pairing, with Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker the full-backs on either side of the duo.
Meanwhile, Raheem Sterling is available after serving his one-match ban last week, and is in contention to make the starting lineup with Guardiola likely to shuffle his pack to keep all his charges fit and firing.
However, Sergio Aguero and David Silva are expected to start the match, having been taken off early in the midweek tie. Also in contention to start on Saturday is Leroy Sane, who has started the season brightly, and scored a late brace last weekend.
Possible Starting XI (4-1-3-2): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Mendy; Fernandinho, David Silva, De Bruyne, Sane; Aguero, Jesus
- Manchester City are unbeaten against Watford in the Premier League, winning four of their six matches (D2).
- Watford are unbeaten in their first four matches of a top-flight season for the first time in their history.
- Watford have been playing catch up for just 33 minutes in the Premier League this season. Huddersfield (18 mins) and Manchester United (2 mins) are the only teams that have been behind for fewer minutes.
- Sergio Aguero has six goals and one assist in four previous appearances against Watford in all competitions.
- Against no side have Manchester City gone more games without facing their first defeat than Watford, joint with Sheffield United.
Player To Watch
Watford have kicked off their 2017-18 Premier League campaign with a bang, and a lot of it is down to defensive solidity that has been apparent for everyone to see under Marco Silva. A lot of it is down to Heurelho Gomes, the veteran Brazilian goalkeeper who has been a rock between the sticks for the Hornets.
Gomes has been one of the best shot stoppers in the Premier League ever since Watford returned to the top flight in 2015. While the start to the season wasn’t quite as strong for the shot stopper – he let in three goals against Liverpool – he has not had to pick the ball out of his net even once since then.
Manchester City, though, are another level of test altogether for the Brazilian, with the Citizens one of the most prolific sides in the league. Set to be peppered by a barrage of shots on Saturday, thus, Gomes will have to be on his guard at all times to earn his side a point, and maybe even more.
Watford 1-2 Manchester City
Manchester City have made a blistering start to the latest edition of the Premier League, with their 5-0 rout of Liverpool a huge indication of just how far they have come after one season under Pep Guardiola.
Marco Silva’s Watford will be a huge test of City’s title credentials, with the Hornets proving to be tough customers thus far. As Silva showed with Hull City last season, his teams are a hard nut to crack, thanks to organised and disciplined defending.
With Watford though, Silva has a side that can be a tough outfit to deal with in the final third as well, and that’s where Guardiola’s true test lies. His men will have to be at the top of their game throughout the match in order to get all three points.
Sergio Aguero, though, is in menacing form and with his partnership with Gabriel Jesus blossoming well, City are likely to get past the hosts… only just. The Hard Tackle predicts a hard-fought 2-1 win for Pep Guardiola and co.