Manchester City travel to St. Mary’s to take on the high-flying Southampton as they look to get their dismal Premier League season on the right track.
Manchester City visit the St. Mary Stadium on the back of two successive draws and face the daunting challenge of playing Ralph Hasenhuttl’s energetic Southampton side. City are currently ninth in the Premier League table, 4 points behind third-placed Southampton and are likely to go all out for all three points.
City have dropped points on six occasions already. To put things in context, City drew thrice in the entirety of last season in comparison to the five times that they have already this term. It has been far from an ideal start for Pep Guardiola’s team, and a trip to Southampton at this point is not something teams look forward to anymore.
Southampton have been in mesmerising form this season and find themselves unexpectedly in third place after 13 games. The Saints are third for goals scored this season having already found the net 25 times and will not make life easy for Manchester City.
Two high-pressing teams, and two teams that guarantee a lot of entertainment – it is a game that promises to be one of the must-watch games this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Ralph Hasenhuttl is a lucky man to not have any injuries to cope with at a camp that it is at its very peak at the moment. However, with the festive period of the Premier League well in its groove, Southampton play their third game in just seven days and could be forced to rotate around a working formula to avoid injuries.
Players like Danny Ings who has just returned from a difficult injury, need to be protected. The same can be said about the injury-prone Theo Walcott, who has finally found his feet at the St. Mary’s and looks completely rejuvenated.
The Saints are expected to stick to their high tempo 4-4-2 shape as they hope to secure a top 4 spot heading into Christmas. Having only lost 1 game in their last 11 matches, they are expected to stick with Alex McCarthy in goal and the usual suspects of their back four.
Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse, the set-piece king, have been a revelation for Southampton in the middle of the park and showed continue their strong showings.
Stuart Armstrong should be accompanied by the surprise inclusion of Moussa Djenepo, who offers a lot of trickery and pace which could come in handy against Kyle Walker who tends to give away cheap free-kicks which Southampton can truly capitalise upon.
While a front-two of Danny Ings and Che Adams would be the way to go for this big match, it would be sensible of Hasenhuttl to protect his talisman, Ings, amidst the fixture pile-up and play Theo Walcott in a more advanced role alongside Adams.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): McCarthy; Bertrand, Vestergaard, Bednarek, Walker-Peters; Djenepo, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Armstrong; Adams, Walcott
5 wins in 12 games in the Premier League is far from ideal for a team of Manchester City’s quality that has only won back to back games once this season. City are expected to give a statement performance at the St. Mary’s and prove why they are still title contenders in a season where they are already 8 points off the top.
Sergio Aguero, who has been central to a lot of discussion at Manchester City lately, did not train until Friday after making an appearance versus West Brom and is unlikely to get a start. According to Guardiola, Aguero felt discomfort in an area that was not his knee, which could be a cause for more concern.
In defence, John Stones is expected to return after being rested versus West Brom. It is still astonishing how Aymeric Laporte is struggling for minutes at the moment. Meanwhile, Kyle Walker is expected to replace Joao Cancelo at right-back and Benjamin Mendy should retain his spot at left-back.
Guardiola’s reliable enforcer Fernandinho is expected to return to the squad with either of Rodri or Ilkay Gundogun making way for the Brazilian. Despite being the goalscorer in the last game, it is the German that is most likely to be benched.
Meanwhile, Guardiola has confirmed that Kevin De Bruyne will continue to play throughout this busy run as he is integral to Manchester City. Riyad Mahrez should replace Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling could shift back to the left-hand side. Ferran Torres and Bernardo Silva continue to remain benched as Gabriel Jesus could lead the line-up yet again.
City’s front three will do their best to exploit Southampton’s high defensive line, while the Rodri-Fernandinho pivot will be tasked to deal with Southampton’s in-form midfield duo of Romeu and Ward-Prowse.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Mendy, Stones, Dias, Walker; Rodri, Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne; Sterling, Jesus, Mahrez
- Southampton have just lost three of their last 20 Premier League matches.
- Southampton are looking to win back-to-back Premier League games against Manchester City for the first time since 2003.
- Raheem Sterling has been involved in 148 goals for Manchester City since the appointment of Pep Guardiola. He is just 2 goals/assists away from becoming the first player to reach 150 goal-involvements for City under the former Barcelona boss.
- The Saints have scored at least twice in each other of their last seven Premier League home games, netting 16 goals in the process.
- Manchester City have drawn their last two Premier League games. They have not gone three games without a win since March 2017.
Player to Watch
After a good start to the season and small drought thereafter, Sterling seems to have refound his touch. The Englishman should have scored the winner against the Baggies at the Etihad in the last match and would be ruing that miss.
With De Bruyne’s creative touch, Sterling could give Kyle Walker-Peters a lot of problems down that left flank and also use his clever runs and pace to exploit Southampton’s high line. If City manage to take their chances, a goal-fest could be on its way with Sterling at the centre of things.
Southampton 1-2 Manchester City
Southampton are in tremendous touch and really look hard to beat. However, given the slump that Manchester City find themselves n, they ought to be more motivated than ever to find a positive result. Manchester City certainly have the firepower to beat Southampton, and an end-to-end match where City narrowly prevails is looking like a likely outcome of this game that promises to be entertaining.