Manchester City will look to get back to winning ways in the Premier League, when they welcome a rejuvenated Watford side to the Etihad on Saturday.
Last weekend, we had generously predicted an emphatic 4-0 win for Manchester City as they faced newly promoted Norwich City away from home. What transpired later surprised not only us but also Pep Guardiola as his team crashed to a shock defeat to an injury-hit Canaries side. The Catalan manager will be expecting a swift response from his team, but they face a rejuvenated Watford side.
That defeat to Norwich left Manchester City five points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool, who have won all of their games so far. Guardiola will take comfort from City’s midweek endeavours in the Champions League after dispatching Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0, a result that would have acted like a confidence booster.
Their opponents, Watford come into this game, sitting at the very bottom of the Premier League table. The Hornets are yet to win a game this season and have already replaced Javi Gracia, with Quique Sanchez Flores returning to the helm. The new Watford boss, however, was able to instill belief in the from the get-go, considering their brilliant display against Arsenal last weekend.
Watford came from two goals down to finish the game 2-2. They also displayed some fluid attacking moves and took 31 shots, their most against a single opponent in Premier League history. The belief accrued from last weekend ought to boost Watford this weekend and they will be targeting at least a draw. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Manchester City still have problems in central defence, with Aymeric Laporte set to be absent for at least 6 months. John Stones is also unavailable with a muscular problem and will be out for up to five weeks. Pep Guardiola has claimed Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho may not be able to play every game, but could have to field the pair at the heart of the defence back against Watford.
On the bright side, Benjamin Mendy made his return against Shakhtar Donetsk as a substitute. Guardiola may be tempted to give the Frenchman his first start of the season ahead of Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back. On the other flank, Joao Cancelo, who has been patient enough to wait for his chance, may finally be rewarded with his debut and replace Kyle Walker at right-back.
It remains to be seen if Guardiola opts to keep Walker on the bench or start him in a central defensive position, in which case Fernandinho might sit among the substitutes.
In midfield, Kevin De Bruyne, who looked exhausted in the midweek fixture, might make way for David Silva in the side. Bernardo Silva also looks set to play in a midfield role on the right side, with Rodrigo the preferred defensive midfielder this season.
Bernardo Silva’s move to the middle might see an extended run in the starting lineup for Riyad Mahrez, who was particularly impressive against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sergio Aguero, who has scored in every Premier League game so far this season, will continue in the central striking role, with Raheem Sterling a sure starter on the left side of the Manchester City attack.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Cancelo, Walker, Otamendi, Mendy; Bernardo Silva, Rodrigo, David Silva; Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling
Quique Sanchez Flores will be without defender Craig Cathcart once again this weekend. The defender has been missing since the international break due to a thigh injury. Troy Deeney is the other casualty in the team, missing with a knee injury.
Judging the way his side performed last weekend, the Watford manager could be tempted to retain most of the players that started against Arsenal. The manager might only look to change the shape of his team to utilise Ismaila Sarr in attack.
The Senegalese winger came off the bench to impress against Arsenal and Flores could include him in the starting lineup. So, as things stand, Sarr may be the only change in the side, with Andre Gray set to lead the line for Watford against Manchester City.
The other option in that role is Danny Welbeck, but Flores dropped the former Arsenal striker altogether from the squad last weekend. The manager later confirmed the striker was not as fit as the other players in the squad. and that situation might not change this weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Foster; Femenia, Dawson, Kabasele, Holebas; Doucoure, Capoue; Sarr, Cleverley, Deulofeu; Gray
- Manchester City have won their last 11 meetings with Watford in all competitions, scoring at least twice in each game.
- Eight of the last 11 Premier League goals the Manchester City have conceded have been via set pieces.
- Watford have lost each of their last 15 Premier League away games against ‘Big Six’ teams by an aggregate scoreline of 9-45, with their last such victory coming against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in January 2017.
- Sergio Aguero is one strike short of becoming only the third player to have scored 100 Premier League goals in one stadium, after Thierry Henry with 114 at Highbury and Wayne Rooney with 101 at Old Trafford.
- Raheem Sterling has scored eight goals in seven appearances against Watford in all competitions.
Player to Watch
Aguero has been Manchester City’s shining light since signing for the club, and his form only keeps on improving. The Argentine striker has netted in all five games so far in the league. A goal against Watford would set a new Premier League record for the longest goalscoring streak at the start of the season, as he is currently tied with Wayne Rooney and the late Jose Antonio Reyes.
The 31-year-old looks like he is enjoying the best form of his glittering career to date, something that will surely keep Gabriel Jesus confined to the bench. Aguero is City’s biggest goal threat and will have to make the most of it to help his team challenge Liverpool at the top of the table.
Manchester City 3-0 Watford
Watford came from two goals down against Arsenal and showed so much more than just character. However, this weekend they face Manchester City, who are a different animal altogether, one that is rather ferocious. City, who are much more fearsome and efficient in penetrating the opposition defence, would have taken note of Arsenal’s exploit last weekend.
Moreover, the hosts have some catching up to do at the top of the table. Pep Guardiola will demand his team secure all three points to keep sight of Liverpool. The midweek win was a great response to their loss last weekend, but Guardiola would want his side to be ruthless when they face Watford. Expect a massive defeat for Watford, who are set to remain rock bottom.