Manchester City will look to extend their lead at the top of the table, when they take on Sean Dyche’s Burnley
Premier League leaders Manchester City will pay a visit to the Turf Moor this Saturday, as they gear up to face off against Burnley.
The Citizens come into the game on the back of a resounding 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion during the midweek at the Etihad, to go fifteen points ahead of second-placed Manchester United in the league table. And with their local rivals set to play later on Saturday, they will have a chance to further extend their lead with a win.
Burnley, on the other hand, seem to have faded in recent weeks, after a brilliant start to the new campaign. They continue to occupy the seventh position in the standings but are without a win in their last nine fixtures in all competitions, since their 1-0 win over Stoke City in the second week of December.
The Clarets drew their midweek game against Newcastle United 1-1 and manager Sean Dyche will be hoping to avoid a fate similar to when his side were beaten 4-1 by City in the third round of the FA Cup last month.
Team News and Tactics
The Clarets have suffered a major setback as midfielder Steven Defour, who had been a permanent fixture in the starting XI, has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. He joins Robbie Brady on the treatment table, who is also sidelined till summer.
Elsewhere, Stephen Ward returned to training earlier this week and may be welcomed back into the team, while centre-back James Tarkowski is unlikely to return after missing out the Newcastle game due to a groin problem. Captain Tom Heaton and club-record signing Chris Wood are also ruled out.
Burnley will have to stay compact at the back if they are to avoid another heavy defeat against the Sky Blues and goalkeeper Nick Pope, who has been a revelation this season, will need to be at his very best.
In the full-back positions, Dyche is likely to start with Phil Bardsley and Charlie Taylor, both of whom will be tested by the City attack rigorously, while Kevin Long and former City defender Ben Mee will be tasked to deal with Sergio Aguero’s threat.
Johann Berg-Gudmundsson has been a consistent performer for the Clarets this campaign and will feature on the right-side, while Scott Arfield should continue on the opposite flank in the absence of Robbie Brady. Both the players will have to help out their full-backs, while also trying to exploit any chink in the City defence in the wide areas.
In the centre of the park, summer signing Jack Cork could start along with former Aston Villa man Ashley Westwood, who will take the injured Defour’s place. Their roles will be crucial, if Burnley are to nip City’s threat in the bud.
Jeff Hendrick has proven to be quite useful operating in the hole behind the striker and should continue to feature in a similar role at the Turf Moor on Saturday, with Ashley Barnes as the target man leading the line.
Probable line-up (4-4-1-1): Pope; Bardsley, Long, Mee, Taylor; Berg-Gudmundsson, Westwood, Cork, Arfield; Hendrick; Barnes;
Pep Guardiola’s side are likely to be without influential midfielder David Silva, who was taken off injured in the win over West Brom during the week. Apart from the Spaniard, Gabriel Jesus, Benjamin Mendy and Leroy Sane are ruled for the champions elect, while Fabian Delph and youngster Phil Foden also miss out.
Ederson Moraes has been exceptional between the sticks for the Cityzens and is a guaranteed starter for the weekend’s game, with Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko set to continue in the full- back areas. The two will be provided with plenty of opportunity to romp forward, given that the home team are likely to sit deep.
In the heart of the defence, John Stones could be in line for a return to the starting line-up alongside Nicolas Otamendi, having missed the midweek game due to illness. This could see City’s record signing Aymeric Laporte sit out, despite impressing heavily on his debut against the Baggies.
In the middle of the park, Fernandinho will retain his spot at the base of the midfield to shield his back four and allow City’s main creative outlet, Kevin De Bruyne, to flourish. The Belgian is likely to be partnered by Ilkay Gundogan in the absence of David Silva.
The attacking trio for City is likely to comprise of summer signing Bernardo Silva on the right, former Liverpool man Raheem Sterling on the left, and City’s highest ever goalscorer Sergio Aguero through the middle. Together, they form a deadly contingent and will cause a horde of problems for the Burnley defence.
Probable line-up (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Gundogan; B Silva, Aguero, Sterling;
- Burnley have won one of their last 18 matches against Man City in all competitions (D5 L12), a 1-0 win in March 2015.
- Manchester City have won six of their last seven trips to Turf Moor in all competitions, barring the 1-0 loss in 2015.
- Burnley have scored the fewest home goals of any Premier League side this season (8).
- City have twice beaten Burnley already this season: 3-0 in the Premier League and 4-1 in the FA Cup.
- City have dropped points in their last two away games, having won their previous 10 this season. They haven’t gone three Premier League away games without a win since May 2016.
Player to watch
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Belgian midfielder has been the best player of the Premier League so far this season. De Bruyne, in the 2017/18 campaign, has taken his game to a whole new level and has emerged as the focal point of City’s rampant title charge, having already scored 7 goals in the league and registered a league-high 11 assists.
The primary creative hub of this City side, it is he who makes them tick alongside the classy David Silva. However, with his partner-in-crime set to miss out on Saturday with injury, De Bruyne will have to shoulder more responsibilities to take his team across the finishing line. And if his performances this season are anything to go by, the Belgian will deliver.
Burnley 0-2 Manchester City
Turf Moor is always an intimidating place to visit and Burnley had managed to turn it into a fortress last season. That may haven’t been the case this time around, but Sean Dyche’s men are going to make life difficult for City, without a question.
However, Guardiola’s side ooze class and confidence at the moment and should have enough in their tank to shake off any challenges that Burnley might pose and we at the Hard Tackle predict a 2-0 win for the leaders.