Manchester City will be aiming for their fifth win in a row in all competitions when they host Southampton at the Etihad on Saturday.
Manchester City started the 2021-22 season disappointingly, as the Community Shield loss to Leicester City was followed by a 1-0 defeat to Tottenham in their Premier League opening fixture, but Pep Guardiola & co. have regained their momentum and have won all of the last four games in all competitions since.
Three of those victories have come in the Premier League, overcoming the likes of Norwich City, Arsenal, and Leicester City. They scored a combined 11 goals while allowing none; this red-hot form propels them to fifth place in the table, just one point behind table-toppers and city rivals Manchester United.
The Citizens are brimming with confidence as they started their Champions League campaign in a dominating fashion, thrashing RB Leipzig 6-3 in the midweek to move to the top of Group A standings.
Southampton, meanwhile, began their Premier League campaign with a 3-1 defeat to the hands of Everton, but they are on an unbeaten run across all competitions since then, which included an 8-0 the road win to Newport County in the Carabao Cup and three consecutive draws against Manchester United, Newcastle United and West Ham, respectively. They have collected 3 points from 4 games and are currently sitting in 14th position on the Premier League table.
The Saints registered a surprising 1-0 win over the Citizens in July 2020, although they were defeated 5-2 at the Etihad Stadium in the corresponding fixture last season. Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl will be mindful of the magnitude of the challenge before his squad as they go to a Man City side that has plundered 16 goals in three home games in all competitions of the season so far.
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Manchester City will again miss the services of backup goalkeeper Zack Steffen this weekend. The American is still in self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. Also, left-back Benjamin Mendy has been handed a suspension by the club and is currently in police custody. He will not be featuring anytime soon.
Pep Guardiola will keep the favourable 4-3-3 setup intact with Gabriel Jesus, Kyle Walker and Ilkay Gundogan all returning to the starting XI for Saturday’s fixture after making substitute appearances in the midweek. Phil Foden had his first outing of the season against RB Leipzig on midweek; however, it is far too early to expect him to start the game on Saturday afternoon.
John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are set to miss out on the Southampton game due to respective injury issues, which mean Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias will keep their places as centre-back partnership protecting Ederson, who will take his place between the sticks. Joao Cancelo and Walker will provide the width to the backline and will push forwards to break down the opponents.
New-signing Jack Grealish has started every game for Man City this season, so Pep Guardiola may decide to give him some rest. Raheem Sterling, on the other hand, has only started once in five games. He is pushing for a start and may get one on the weekend.
Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres will join Sterling to form a front-three. Jesus has been a revelation since moving out-wide while Torres’ provides sharp movements and incisive runs to cause problems for the opposition backline.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Ake, Dias, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Jesus, Torres, Sterling
Similar to his counterpart in the Manchester City dugout, Ralph Hasenhuttl also has a fair few injury concerns ahead of the trip to the Etihad. In his pre-match press conference, the Saints boss confirmed that both Stuart Armstrong and Theo Walcott would remain unavailable for selection through respective injuries.
William Smallbone is back in full training after spending eight months on the sidelines due to a long-term injury but is unlikely to feature in the City game. Shane Long has fully recovered from coronavirus, but Saturday’s game might come too soon for him and will start on the bench.
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The German boss may shift to a 4-2-3-1 formation with McCarthy in goal, Mohammed Salisu and Jack Stephens as the centre-back pairing flanked by Valentino Livramento and Romain Perraud as pushing full-backs.
James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu will be deployed in the centre of the pitch as a double pivot, trying to thwart Manchester City’s attacks. Ward-Prowse, meanwhile, will also play a significant part in set-piece scenarios as usual.
Out wide, Moussa Djenepo and Nathan Redmond will likely be favoured, with Theo Walcott missing out. Finally, Adam Armstrong will have the responsibility to lead the Saints attacking frontline and will hope to convert from the limited amount of chances he will get in front of goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): McCarthy; Livramento, Salisu, Stephens, Perraud; Ward-Prowse Romeu; Redmond, Elyounoussi, Djenepo; Adam Armstrong
- Man City have won eight of their last nine Premier League meetings against Southampton, the only exception is a 1-0 loss at St Mary’s in July 2020.
- Southampton have failed to score in only one of their previous 16 away trips to City, but they have also been unable to register a single clean sheet in across of the last 11 games.
- The Citizens have came out victorious in each of their last three home Premier League matches by a 5-0 score line – only Everton (1931) and Aston Villa (1899) are the two Premier League teams to have won four consecutive home games by a margin of five goals or more.
- The Saints are experiencing a rot as they are winless in their previous six top-flight games (D3 L3), drawing each of the last three on trot. The last time Southampton went on a 4-game drawing streak was back in Mar 2002.
- Man City winger Raheem Sterling has a very good record against the visitors, scoring 7 and assisting a further four in 16 appearances versus Saints.
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The England star got off the mark against Norwich, but uncertainties surrounding his regular game-time continue as he only has one start in the league so far. With Grealish, fatigued Pep, Guardiola may hand Sterling the chance to prove his worth.
Sterling’s skill set is very different if compared to that of Grealish, he springs to life near the by-line most of the time, using burst in pace to beat his marker to either cross for on-rushing forwards or fire a powerful low-drive to keepers far post after cutting inside-out.
Despite having produced some superb displays at Euros, Sterling needs to convince Guardiola to keep his position in the team. Sterling has always been a key asset to Manchester City and will be essential this season if the Citizens want to triumph on all frontiers.
Manchester City 3-1 Southampton
Southampton have been a difficult side to break down in recent weeks, notably in the second half of the match against Manchester United. Ralph Hasenhuttl may set up his side on intense press and quick exchanges to pose a threat with Adam Armstrong’s clever runs in the forward areas.
The Citizens showed little defensive vulnerability in the midweek game against RB Leipzig, where the duo of Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake hardly looked convincing. Still, Guardiola will have worked teeing up defensive issues before the weekend game. Man City are a much stronger team on the paper than Southampton and are also in such good form right now. Hence, THT is going with a comfortable 3-1 victory for the hosts.