Manchester City will be desperate to return to winning ways when they take on Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Tuesday.
The games continue to come thick and fast in the Premier League as Gameweek 24 commences just a couple of days after the end of the previous matchday. The defending champions, Manchester City, will be in action on Tuesday, when they travel to Yorkshire to lock horns with Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
Sheffield United have made waves upon their return to the Premier League, with qualification for European football come the end of the season a possibility. The Blades are currently placed seventh on the table, just a point behind fifth-placed Manchester United. Chris Wilder’s men come into the game on the back of another impressive result, as they held Arsenal to a 1-1 draw.
For Manchester City, on the other hand, the Premier League campaign has been disappointing to say the least. After amassing 198 points in the last two seasons, the reigning champions are unlikely to get anywhere near their tally in either campaign, with a three-peat improbable as well after Liverpool pulled 16 points clear atop the table this past weekend.
The reverse fixture, played at the Etihad Stadium last month, saw Manchester City grab a 2-0 win courtesy goals from Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Chris Wilder has a near-full strength squad at his disposal ahead of the visit of Manchester City, which is quite crucial amid a fixture congestion. David McGoldrick is the only first-team player who is a doubt for the game due to the foot injury that forced him to miss out against Arsenal this past weekend.
With Wilder having plenty of strikers at his disposal, it is likely that McGoldrick will be given time to regain full fitness before he returns. On Tuesday, Lys Mousset and Oliver McBurnie should form the strike partnership for Sheffield United once again, with club captain Billy Sharp and Callum Robinson providing backup from the bench.
The rest of the side is expected to remain unchanged as well, with Wilder preferring to keep his midfield and defence largely intact so far this season. Muhamed Besic did impress after appearing off the bench and would be hoping for another start against Manchester City, having been part of the starting XI in the reverse fixture.
However, John Lundstram and the in-form John Fleck should retain their places in the middle of the park, with Oliver Norwood sitting at the base of the midfield. George Baldock and Enda Stevens will be the wing-back pairing once again, with the duo providing much of the creative outlet from the flanks.
At the back, the trio of Chris Basham, John Egan and Jack O’Connell will aim to keep things tight and will be supported by Baldock and Stevens during the defensive phase. Manchester United loanee Dean Henderson will once again start in goal, where he will likely be a busy man facing a barrage of efforts from the Manchester City attack.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; McBurnie, Mousset
Unlike his counterpart in the Sheffield United dugout, Pep Guardiola has a few injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the trip to Bramall Lane. While Leroy Sane is a long-term absentee, John Stones is set to miss out on Tuesday due to a leg injury sustained late in Manchester City’s clash with Crystal Palace.
Aymeric Laporte is inching closer to his return from a knee injury, but the trip to Sheffield United will have come a tad too soon for him. Benjamin Mendy is the final concern for Guardiola, with the Frenchman struggling with fatigue late on against Palace.
Mendy, though, is likely to start on Tuesday, with a ten-day resting period beckoning post the game against Sheffield United, seeing as he might not be involved in the FA Cup this weekend. Stones’ absence means Nicolas Otamendi becomes a certain starter alongside Fernandinho at the heart of the Manchester City defence. Kyle Walker ought to edge Joao Cancelo to the right-back slot.
David Silva was underwhelming last time out and could drop down to the bench, with Bernardo Silva playing in the midfield in his stead. Rodri, meanwhile, should return at the base of the three-man midfield, which should ease up some of the defensive burden on Kevin De Bruyne, allowing the Belgian to play more freely.
Upfront, Bernardo Silva’s move to the midfield means Riyad Mahrez becomes an automatic pick in the three-pronged attack, although Mahrez’s form warrants a start anyway. Another player who seems to be indispensable in his current form is Sergio Aguero, who should lead the line against Sheffield United for Manchester City, with Raheem Sterling completing the numbers in attack.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Mendy; De Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo Silva; Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling
- Sheffield United have faced Manchester City more often without winning in the Premier League than they have versus any other side, drawing three games and losing four.
- Manchester City have won each of their last five Premier League games in Yorkshire, as many as they had in their previous 20 in the county in the top-flight (W5 D6 L9).
- Sheffield United have won just one of their last 15 league games against reigning top-flight champions (D3 L11), losing their last five in a row without scoring. Their only victory in that run was at home to Leeds in April 1993 (2-1).
- Manchester City have kept just two clean sheets in their last 13 Premier League games, with one of those against Sheffield United at the Etihad.
- Sergio Aguero has scored five goals in two Premier League appearances in January – one more than he managed in 11 appearances this season across September, October, November and December (four goals).
Player to Watch
It took him some time to adjust to the demands of being a Manchester City player, but Mahrez is finally starting to feel at home in the blue of the Citizens. In the last six appearances, Mahrez has averaged a direct goal involvement per game, with three goals and as many assists in the period.
In fact, stretching back to last season, Mahrez is the only Premier League player to both score and assist 20 goals in all competitions (21 goals, 23 assists). Such has been his impact in the side that without him, City lacked the bite and X-Factor on the right flank against Crystal Palace.
A pivotal member in Pep Guardiola’s squad, Mahrez is every bit crucial to his team’s fortunes as any other player and he will be hoping to prove the same against a tricky opposition like Sheffield United.
Sheffield United 1-2 Manchester City
After a draw that would have been tough to take for Manchester City, things hardly get any easier. Up next are a side that has frustrated most oppositions this season – Sheffield United. However, as winning the Premier League title once again practically seems to be out of their hands now, City are likely to express themselves more.
The return of Rodri and Riyad Mahrez should also help the visitors play more freely and perhaps, bring the best out of Kevin De Bruyne. However, Sheffield United will stick to their guns and make thing difficult for Manchester City. Expect a keenly contested affair, albeit with Manchester City coming out on top, only just. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Pep Guardiola & co.