Manchester City will be hoping to keep pace with Liverpool when they welcome Southampton to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Reigning champions, Manchester City will lock horns against lowly Southampton in the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, in a game that is a must-win ahead of their scrap with Liverpool next week.

The Cityzens locked horns with the Saints just three days ahead of this contest, beating Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men 3-1 in the Carabao Cup. City also won their last league game 3-0 against Aston Villa, with Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan finding the back of the net.

Pep Guardiola will want to keep the same rhythm going into this game as they chase table toppers Liverpool and try to close down a six-point gap to the Reds. Therefore the Spaniard will have his eyes on those crucial three points.

Southampton, on the other hand, are still fresh off their 9-0 drubbing at the hands of Leicester City last week. The Saints had a decent comeback as a 1-3 loss against this ruthless City side is still a reasonable result considering their struggles. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester City

Fernandinho is back at Pep Guardiola's disposal. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Fernandinho is back at Pep Guardiola’s disposal. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Pep Guardiola will be handed a huge boost as the experienced Fernandinho will return after serving the suspension he accrued from the game against Aston Villa in the midweek fixture versus Southampton. The Brazilian is set to start the game alongside John Stones at the heart of the Manchester City defence.

Guardiola continues to miss the services of the likes of Rodri in midfield, Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko in defence and Leroy Sane in attack, with Sane out with a long-term injury.  Kyle Walker is likely to keep his place, with Benjamin Mendy filling up the left-back slot.

It is certain that Kevin De Bruyne will return to midfield, partnering Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva. The Belgian will be the creative nucleus of the side, with David Silva looking to venture forward and support the attackers. Gundogan, on the other hand, will drop deep, break up play and recycle possession.

Upfront, Bernardo Silva might replace Riyad Mahrez on the right, with Sergio Aguero keeping his place after scoring a brace against Southampton in the midweek cup tie. Raheem Sterling will also return to the starting eleven to add more attacking impetus.

Guardiola is well covered considering the options available to him as backup, as players like Joao Cancelo, Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus can change the course of any game coming on from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Fernandinho, Stones, Mendy; De Bruyne, Gundogan, David Silva; Bernardo Silva, Aguero, Sterling

Manchester City

Southampton

Ralph Hassenhuttl will be without Ryan Bertrand after the defender was sent off against Leicester City for a horrific tackle on Ayoze Perez. Bertrand became the first player in Premier League history to received a red card after consulting with VAR.

The trouble keeps mounting for the Austrian tactician, as important players like Cedric Soares  and Moussa Djenepo are not expected to return for this game. Therefore, the Southampton boss may start with Jack Stephens, who was also their solitary goal scorer in midweek.

Jan Bednarek and Jannik Vestergaard are set to partner Stephens in the back-three. Kevin Danso and Yan Valery will likely be the wing-backs for Southampton and the onus will be on them to work tirelessly and support on both fronts.

In midfield, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oriol Romeu are likely to start and will drop deep to support the Southampton backline against Manchester City’s onslaughts. The likes of James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond will be vested with the responsibility of running behind the City defence on counters and also supplying balls for Danny Ings, who will lead the lines for the Saints.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): McCarthy; Vestergaard, Stephens, Bednarek; Valery, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Danso; Ward-Prowse, Redmond; Ings

Southampton

Key Stats

  • This will be the 92nd competitive meeting between the two clubs, with Manchester City currently leading the head-to-head record with 35 wins compared to Southampton’s 31.
  • Manchester City have won each of their last five Premier League meetings with Southampton, their longest ever winning run against Saints in league competition.
  • Manchester City have not lost a home league game against a side starting the day in the relegation zone since November 2008 (1-2 vs Tottenham), winning 24 and drawing three since.
  • Both of Southampton’s wins in the Premier League this season have been away from home. However, in their top-flight history they have only won two of their 42 away games against reigning champions (W2 D10 L30), beating Leeds 3-1 in 1969-70 and Chelsea 3-1 in 2015-16.
  • If Kevin De Bruyne gets an assist against Southampton, the Belgian will reach ten assists in 11 games, which will be the fastest to reach double figures for assists by a player in Premier League history.

Player to Watch

Raheem Sterling

The danger man. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The danger man. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The Englishman has evolved immensely under Pep Guardiola. From being a raw talent, he has become a finished product and one can gladly say that he is an asset to English football. Sterling is known for his mazy runs and bringing that touch of class in the final third for Manchester City. He combines well with Sergio Aguero upfront and those two can bring mayhem for Southampton.

With seven Premier League goals till now, Sterling is breathing fire and to add to that, the 24-year old winger has taken the most number of shots in the division (29) and has had the most touches inside the penalty area (99). Considering his red hot form, Sterling can be the difference between both the sides.

Prediction

Manchester City 4-0 Southampton

It can be tough for Ralph Hasenhuttl to take another drubbing, just days after being thrashed by Leicester City. But, all indications suggest that this Southampton squad does not have enough firepower in them to pose a threat against reigning champions Manchester City.

If City start the game at their best, it will be mostly about damage control for the Saints. Hasenhuttl’s fate is also dependent on this game as the Austrian has already started feeling the heat. With due respect to Southampton, anything less than a 4-0 win for City won’t do justice to their superiority.

Leave A Comment...

*