Manchester City will be aiming to get back to winning ways when they welcome high-fliers Sheffield United to the Etihad on Sunday.

Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City will be hoping to end the calendar year on a strong note when they take on Sheffield United at the Etihad Stadium this weekend.

Halfway through the season, Manchester City’s hopes of retaining the Premier League title are all but over. Following their 3-2 defeat to Wolves on Friday, Pep Guardiola’s side are already 14 points behind leaders Liverpool, who also have a game in hand. Any more missteps moving forward and the Cityzens could find themselves battling for a place in the top four.

Sheffield United have been the surprise package of the season, sitting in the eighth position in the table, just three points below the top four. Chris Wilder’s side have lost just one of their last twelve league games, with their most recent fixture against Watford ending in a 1-1 draw.

The Blades have fared very well against the big teams this season, having beaten Arsenal and held Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham to draws, while losing narrowly to Liverpool. They will be hoping to continue in the same way when they visit the Etihad and close down the gap to the top four.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester City

Ederson is suspended for the game (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Ederson is suspended for the game (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Manchester City will miss out on the services of first-choice goalkeeper Ederson Moraes, who is suspended for the tie after being sent off in the defeat against Wolves. Both John Stones and David Silva are doubts for the game, while Gabriel Jesus could also miss out, having been taken ill. Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte are ruled out.

Guardiola is expected to make changes to the side that started at the Molineux. Starting in goal, Claudio Bravo is set to start in Ederson’s absence, while Joao Cancelo could be in for a start at right-back, while Oleksandr Zinchenko could return to the side at the expense of Benjamin Mendy, whose mistake cost City the game on Friday.

With John Stones in a late race for fitness, Guardiola might opt to stick with the central defensive partnership of Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi once again on Sunday.

Ilkay Gundogan was not part of the starting lineup last time out, but should return to the side on Sunday, while Kevin De Bruyne, who was unhappy with being taken off against Wolves, is expected to to feature from kick-off once again. Summer signing Rodri is likely to be the deepest of the three midfielder for Manchester City against the Blades.

Bernardo Silva has played the full ninety minutes in each of City’s last three matches and may well be given a breather here by Guardiola. The attacking trident ought to remain unchanged with Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling on the flanks, while Sergio Aguero leads the line.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bravo; Cancelo, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling

Sheffield United

Unlike Guardiola, Chris Wilder has very little to worry about in the fitness department with Simon Moore the only player whose involvement for Sunday’s game is a doubt. The Blades’ boss has looked to field his strongest XI for every game, with little rotation of players, and that is likely to be the case again at the Etihad.

In goal, on-loan Manchester United man Dean Henderson will be looking to put in a solid performance, but he will need all the protection he can get from the three-man defence of Chris Basham, John Egan and Jack O’Connell. George Baldock and Enda Stevens are the automatic picks in the wing-back roles and will be in charge of providing the width going forward.

Midfield mainstay Oliver Norwood, who scored in the Boxing Day draw against Watford, is a certain starter once again. He will have summer signing John Lundstram and John Fleck for company in the centre of the park against the reigning Premier League champions.

The only change in the lineup could come in attack, with Oli McBurnie likely to make way for Lys Mousset as David McGoldrick’s strike partner.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck; McGoldrick, Mousset

Key Stats

  • Manchester City have never lost a Premier League match against Sheffield United (W3 D3), with this the first such meeting since a 1-0 win at Bramall Lane in December 2006.
  • Sheffield United have failed to score in their last seven away league visits to Manchester City, with five of the last six finishing 0-0.
  • Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 37 Premier League home games against promoted sides (W33 D4) since a 0-2 loss against Reading in February 2007. Only Chelsea (43 games between 2001-2015) and Manchester United (40 games between 2002-2015) have had longer such runs in the competition.
  • If Sheffield United avoid defeat on Sunday, they will equal the English top-flight record for longest unbeaten away run from the start of a season for a promoted side (10, level with Burnley in 1947-48).
  • Manchester City have dropped points in three of their nine Premier League home games this season (W6 D1 L2), as many as in their previous 37 at the Etihad (W34 D1 L2).

Player to Watch

Sergio Aguero

Fit again and raring to go (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/AFP/Getty Images)

Fit again and raring to go (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/AFP/Getty Images)

Having been sidelined for over a month with an injury, Manchester City’s all-time leading goalscorer made a return to the side against Wolves on Friday. But, Aguero lasted less than fifteen minutes on the pitch as he was sacrificed for a substitute goalkeeper by Guardiola after Ederson was sent off.

While Gabriel Jesus has done well recently, Aguero’s presence on the field adds so much more to this Manchester City side. The Argentine is the Cityzens’ highest goalscorer at home in the Premier League this season (5), despite having not netted at the Etihad since November 2nd. And the champions will look up to him to produce the goods and lead them to a win on Sunday.

Prediction

Manchester City 1-1 Sheffield United

The manner of the defeat to Wolves earlier this week when they conceded twice in the final ten minutes will have stung Manchester City quite a bit. And they will aiming to produce a strong reaction when they take the field on Sunday, as they hope to avoid getting dragged into the battle for a top four finish.

However, Sheffield United will certainly be no pushovers. The Blades are very much capable of holding their own against Pep Guardiola’s side, having done exceedingly well against the rest of the Big Six teams this season. Moreover, Chris Wilder’s men haven’t lost a single league game on the road this season.

The final Premier League game of 2019 promises to be an exciting one between two teams vastly different in their identities. However, given Manchester City’s recent form and Sheffield United’s record away from home, we at The Hard Tackle are predicting this one to end in a 1-1 draw at the Etihad.

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