Manchester City vss Burnley
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Manchester City will look to bounce back to winning ways after returning from an international break this weekend, having played out a pulsating and fiercely contested 2-2 draw away at Anfield in their last outing. Their opponents for this Saturday managed a 0-0 draw with Norwich City before the break and now find themselves in the relegation zone. While October is certainty extremely early to draw any meaningful interpretation from the league table, Burnley would be concerned about the fact that they’ve yet to register a win this season, and Manchester City are hardly the ideal side to play in this run of form.
Past encounters between the pair have been extremely one-sided, with Burnley suffering an aggregate 20-0 defeat against City in their past 4 matches at the Etihad; that’s 4 5-0 losses in a row! All the statistics point towards a comfortable City win, but that is exactly what Sean Dyche would say to his players to prepare them for a massive upset. City’s stars may be facing the effects of lethargy following the international break, and that would be Burnley’s best chance to capitalise to cause an upset.
The defending champions do have some issues of their own which they need to work on, having missed out on signing a recognised forward during the summer transfer window. With Ferran Torres picking up a major injury whilst on international duty with Spain, and Raheem Sterling’s recent comments about weighing up his options in the absence of more consistent game time, City’s hierarchy have (if reports are to be believed), reached out to Erling Haaland’s entourage, with talks scheduled for January. The Citizens are presently just 2 points off the top of the leaderboard, having already faced the likes of Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool away, without an out-and-out striker.
Newcastle United may indeed have overtaken them as the richest club in the land, but Guardiola’s side will be itching to show the world that they’re still the big dogs in England. Winning the league title given their lack of options upfront would be quite the way to do that, and Pep’s set-up against Burnley may be indicative of the approach he takes for the next few months at least. All eyes will be on the Catalan manager, as he looks to avoid the predicament of failing to score in 2 successive home games – something which City haven’t suffered since 2010. It would require a Burnley masterclass, but their form going into this fixture suggests little reason for optimism. Anything can happen on the football pitch though, and both sides will do well to remember that.
Makeshift forward Ferran Torres suffered a broken metatarsal while on international duty with Spain, and the youngster has been ruled out for 2.5 – 3 months, as per the gaffer.
Brazilian duo Ederson and Gabriel Jesus will also miss out on Saturday’s fixture, with the pair having returned late from international duty with Brazil. US goalie Zack Steffen will likely substitute for Ederson.
On the positive side, midfield maestro Ilkay Gundogan and fan favourite left-back Oleksandr Zinchnenko have returned to training and will be contending for starting berths on Saturday.
Burnley’s squad is riddled with injuries, but they’ll be hoping that a few key men are able to return to full fitness in time to feature against City. Captain and influential centre-half Ben Mee tested positive for COVID-19 and will have to follow the necessary protocols before he can return.
Trio Johan Berg Gudmundsson, Charlie Taylor and Matej Vydra all are recovering from knocks, and while they are in contention to start the game against City, they likely won’t be at full strength. Ergo, involvement from the bench is a more realistic option. However, Gudmundsson has trained for the past few days, and Taylor is “quite confident”, and so Dyche should likely be able to call upon both. Maxwell Cornet is in a similar situation, and a late call on his availability will have to be taken.
Predicted Starting XIs
Manchester City (4-3-3): Steffen; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; Rodri, Gundogan, Bernardo Silva; Mahrez, Sterling, Foden
Burnley (4-4-2): Pope; Lowton, Tarkowski, Collins, Pieters; McNeil, Westwood, Brownhill, Cornet; Wood, Barnes
Predicted Scoreline: Manchester City 2-0 Burnley
I expect Manchester City to continue their strong form against Burnley at the Etihad, but recognise that it will likely not be a goal-fest, owing to the absence of an out-and-out striker, and with Gabriel Jesus also unavailable. Unless Riyad Mahrez awakens his inner beast (which he always seems to do whenever the Clarets show up), I expect a 2-0 win for the hosts.