Manchester City will be aiming to consolidate their place atop the Premier League table when Burnley come visiting to Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Premier League action is surely returning with a bang, as Gameweek 9 unfolds with a marquee clash between two of the elites of the competition. But, Manchester City will have their focus firmly on the chance of extending their lead at the top of the table, when they play hosts to Burnley at Etihad Stadium.

The reigning champions have started the season in typical fashion, dropping points in just two games while remaining unbeaten after the first eight gameweeks. Sure enough, Manchester City have jumped to the top of the standings as well, although they are sharing the lead of the league table with Liverpool and Chelsea, with Arsenal and Tottenham following closely behind.

With the Premier League title race closer than ever before, every little opportunity counts, which could present itself to Pep Guardiola’s men on Saturday. Their performance against Liverpool ahead of the international break was a huge positive as well, although Riyad Mahrez’s miss from the spot would still be hurting.

Burnley, on the other hand, have found a stable footing after a miserable start to their league campaign. The Clarets have stitched together a three-game unbeaten run, which has propelled them to the 12th on the Premier League table, and brimming with confidence.

The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 3-0 win for Manchester City, with Burnley failing to muster up a single shot on target. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Premier League encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester City

Manchester City have returned to the top of the table, but the competition this time is much more fierce. (Photo by Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images)

Manchester City have returned to the top of the table, but the competition this time is much more fierce. (Photo by Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images)

Pep Guardiola has endured a mixed bag, as far as news on the injury front is concerned. The big positive for Manchester City is that Kevin De Bruyne is in line to return to action almost a month ahead of schedule, after recovering from a knee injury.

Guardiola has stressed that De Bruyne will still undergo a fitness test to determine his availability. But, the Belgian superstar could be forced into the starting lineup nevertheless, with the Manchester City boss grappling with injury problems pertaining to Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan.

With the latter dealing with a hamstring injury, Guardiola may choose to give him another week, meaning the nature of De Bruyne’s involvement will depend entirely on Bernardo Silva. The manager’s comments though, suggest that De Bruyne might start, but will be replaced early into the second half.

Another bone of contention will be the player to partner Aymeric Laporte at the heart of the Manchester City defence. John Stones did a marvellous job last time out against Liverpool, but with Burnley posing a more aerial threat, Nicolas Otamendi could get the go ahead, with Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy being the full-backs.

Upfront, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling are certain starters. But, Leroy Sane has tended to be named on the bench whenever Mendy starts, with both players usually operating from similar areas. The German winger should be benched once again, with Riyad Mahrez keeping his place despite his horrific miss against Liverpool.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Mendy; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, David Silva; Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling

City

Burnley

Sean Dyche has a few pressing injury concerns to deal with ahead of the short trip to Etihad to take on Manchester City. On Saturday, the Burnley boss could be without as many as five first-team players, although there is some good new surrounding the return of Steven Defour.

The Belgian midfielder played 90 minutes in a friendly during the international break and is back in contention. As did Robbie Brady, but Dyche confirmed that the Irishman will not be picked this week, and will only be eased back into the side after missing several months of action.

But, the Burnley manager is sweating over the fitness of James Tarkowski, who is recovering from a groin injury that forced him to miss England duty. With Ben Gibson not fit enough to start, Tarkowski’s availability is important.

Nick Pope is the final player on the treatment table, although his absence does not pose a huge problem, with Joe Hart being solid in goal for Burnley. Hart’s latest assignment will be against his former club, who have honoured him by renaming a training pitch in his name as a mark of respect for 12 years at the club.

With such an event preceding it, the game is sure to be an emotionally charged affair for Hart, who will likely play behind a back four of Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Matt Lowton and Charlie Taylor. Up ahead in midfield, Ashley Westwood and Jack Cork will be the central figures who will be looking to stifle David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.

Johan Berg Gudmundsson should be the creative outlet once again, with the Icelandic international posing a major threat with his pinpoint deliveries. Looking to be at the end of those deliveries, will be Sam Vokes – the in-form Burnley striker.

Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1): Hart; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Lennon, Westwood, Cork, Gudmundsson; Hendrick; Vokes

Burnley

Key Stats

  • Manchester City have won four of their eight Premier League games against Burnley (D3 L1), including each of their last two at the Etihad
  • Burnley are winless in 14 away league visits to Manchester City (D6 L8), last winning a top-flight encounter at Maine Road in March 1963.
  • But, no side has a better win rate in Premier League games against reigning champions than Burnley do, with the Clarets winning four of their eight such games (Bournemouth and Manchester United also with 50% win rates).
  • Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has scored six goals in six games against Burnley across all competitions, finding the back of the net in each of his three appearances against the Clarets at the Etihad (four goals).
  • Burnley have blocked 52 shots in this season’s Premier League – no other side has recorded more than 40.

Betting Odds

Favourable Bets

1. Burnley Asian Handicap +3.0 @ 1.775

Underdog Bets

1. Draw or Burnley @ 10.00

Player to Watch

Joe Hart

Will Joe Hart celebrate a Burnley win against his former employers? (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Will Joe Hart celebrate a Burnley win against his former employers? (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

A poignant moment awaits Joe Hart, when he returns to the Etihad for the first time as a visiting player in his senior career. Add to that, the renaming of a training ground in his honour, and the former Manchester City superstar can only make this weekend one of his most memorable ones in one way.

Hart has been one of the best goalkeepers on show in the Premier League this season, and he can solidify that claim by denying his former employers a win. Sergio Aguero & co. will surely make it tough for him. But, Hart has shown that he still has what it takes to stop the best of attacks.

Prediction

Manchester City 2-0 Burnley

Liverpool have a sort of an injury crisis hampering their preparations for the weekend. Chelsea face Manchester United in a game wherein they could drop points. Manchester City thus, have the perfect game to create some headway between them and the rest of the sides, although Burnley will provide them a run for their money.

The Clarets are visibly back to their best after a shoddy start to the season, and their improving prowess in the final third will make things tough for Pep Guardiola’s men. But, Burnley do not exactly boast a solid look at the back, and with Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero in fine form, Manchester City will fancy their chances.

The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 win for Pep Guardiola & co. to possibly extend their lead atop the Premier League table.