Manchester City will seek to extend their winning streak to seven games when they welcome Leeds United to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.
After a slow start to the season, Manchester City seems to be shifting into top gear as they have been gaining serious momentum in recent weeks. The Cityzens’ defensive resilience has seen them become a major contender for the Premier League crown. Chelsea’s injury woes have caused them to slip a little, and despite the modest point differential between the top three, it appears to be a two-horse race once more.
The Sky Blues are coming on the back of a hard-fought 1-0 home win over Wolves, as Raul Jimenez’s foolish red card and a dubious penalty proved to be the difference on Saturday. England winger Raheem Sterling stepped up and calmly slotted home from 12 yards to solidify City’s position at the top of the league, one point ahead of Liverpool while two points clear of Chelsea after 16 rounds of fixtures.
Leeds has been a bustling Premier League club under Marcelo Bielsa, with their attractive style of play winning the hearts of the neutrals, but constant injury woes have hampered their progression drastically this season. The Whites’ returned home empty-handed despite their valiant efforts in a dramatic 3-2 defeat against Chelsea, which saw three penalties, but with favourable results elsewhere, they remain in 15th place, six points clear of the relegation zone.
Manchester City, surprisingly, fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Leeds at the Etihad Stadium last season, courtesy to a stoppage-time winner from Stuart Dallas. Ahead of the latest fixture between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Manchester City (@ManCity) December 13, 2021
Manchester City will have to make do without the services of suspended Joao Cancelo for Tuesday’s clash after he picked up his fifth booking of the league season. Ilkay Gundogan was seen struggling with back pain after coming off against Wolves last weekend and is a doubt, while Ferran Torres remains sidelined until the turn of the year.
Pep Guardiola could line up Manchester City in his preferred 4-3-3 formation with slight personnel changes to the side that took to field against Wolves. Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez could return to the starting lineup this midweek to provide fresh legs, while Kyle Walker could come back as a forced change following Cancelo’s suspension.
Fresh from completing a century of clean sheets, Ederson Moraes is a certain starter in between the sticks. Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias will aim to continue their partnership at the heart of City’s backline despite England defender John Stones pushing for a start, with Nathan Ake fit enough to make the bench on Tuesday.
Walker will fill in on the right-back position, whereas Oleksandr Zinchenko should retain his spot on the left flank. Both will look to dominate the flanks while making some fruitful forward runs. Rodri will again anchor the midfield from the holding midfield position while shielding the home side’s back-four.
De Bruyne is having a quite underwhelming season by his high standards and will be hoping to impress from a left midfield position, while Bernardo Silva is always a buzzing presence as a right-sided midfielder offering effectiveness in the final third and defensive work rate to sustain the high press.
It would not be surprising to see Guardiola rotate in attack. Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez will take up the wide positions, playing on the left and right wings, respectively. English sensation Phil Foden will get a chance to impress deployed in the false nine role. His sharp movements, deft touches and quickness would create enough problems for the Leeds backline.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Laporte, Dias, Zinchenko; Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Foden, Sterling
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa will again have to contend with a host of injury problems to key players. The Argentine boss has ruled out the injured quintet of Rodrigo, Kalvin Phillips, Patrick Bamford, Pascal Struijk and Liam Cooper for the trip to Manchester City. There is also a shortage of fit defenders at the club, with Robin Koch facing a late check, although Tuesday’s clash might come too soon for him.
Bielsa is renowned for his tactical versatility and could again set up the Whites’ in a complex 4-4-1-1 structure. French youngster Illan Meslier will take up his place in goal and will hope to continue his good form. Having just returned from his own injury, Ayling will continue to deputise at centre-back alongside Diego Llorente amidst an injury crisis in the defensive department.
🎙 𝗠𝗮𝗿𝗰𝗲𝗹𝗼 𝗼𝗻 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝗻 𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗺 𝗖𝗶𝘁𝘆: “Every game we make a lot of effort to win. Sometimes it’s possible, sometimes it’s not. We have a lot of hope we can obtain what we deserve and put points on the board.” pic.twitter.com/brzpcQ9pxK
— Leeds United (@LUFC) December 13, 2021
Dallas will most likely start on the right side of the defence, with Junior Firpo set to continue at left-back. The former Barcelona man is yet to justify his hefty price-tag that Whites’ shelled out on him and will be hoping for an improved display this time around.
With Kalvin Phillips a big miss, Bielsa will likely deploy veteran Adam Forshaw in a withdrawn midfield role. Meanwhile, Jamie Shackleton will provide additional support in the engine room. Jack Harrison will look to add more dynamism in the final third, slotting in on the left flank, whereas an explosive Raphinha would again be the Whites’ most potent attacking threat and creative outlet.
Tyler Roberts impressed against Chelsea in a slightly deeper role, bagging an assist, the Welshman can continue as a supporting striker. Joe Gelhardt looks an exciting, technically gifted player and after scoring off the bench at Chelsea, he could well be rewarded with a chance to spearhead the line for the Whites’.
Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1): Meslier; Dallas, Ayling, Llorente, Firpo; Raphinha, Shackleton, Forshaw, Harrison; Roberts; Gelhardt
- Manchester City are winless in their last four top-flight games against Leeds (D2 L2). Their last win against the Whites came back in January 2003 (2-1).
- Manchester City are in fine form heading into the game, having won their last six league matches. On the other hand, Leeds’ defeat at the hands of Chelsea was only their second defeat in their last eight top-flight fixtures.
- The Cityzens success in this campaign has come from their defensive resilience on home soil. The Sky Blues have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last nine home matches while only conceding three Premier League goals at the Etihad all season.
- Leeds United have won only two of their 20 Premier League games against the side starting the day top of the table (D9 L9), while they only managed to scrape out a single win from their last 14 away trips against reigning top-flight champions (D9 L9).
- Manchester City have not lost a single one of their previous 14 Premier League home games on Tuesday (W10 D4).
Player to Watch
The English attacker has had a difficult time under Pep Guardiola in recent months, but his confident spot-kick against Wolves last time out was indicative of the changing narrative at the Etihad Stadium. Having started six of Sky Blues’ last seven games, scoring four times in the process, Sterling seems to be regaining the Catalan coach’s trust.
Guardiola said after the Wolves game that Sterling had lost his starting spot in the City side because of a dip in form at the tail end of the last season but claimed the winger is now back to his best. Fresh from joining the ‘100 Premier League goals club’, Sterling would be raring to score against a Leeds defence that struggles to defend against a speedy winger.
Manchester City 2-0 Leeds United
Manchester City are in great form at the moment and have one of the strongest squads in the division. With Liverpool and Chelsea hot on their trails, Pep Guardiola’s men can not afford to slip here and throw away their slender lead at the top.
On the other hand, Leeds may be an exciting team on their day, but with multiple absentees to cope with and a habit for leaking goals away from home, this game seems to be going only in one way. The Hard Tackle predicts a comfortable 3-1 victory for the hosts in what could be an intriguing tactical battle between Guardiola and Bielsa.