Manchester City vs Burnley
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Referee: Lee Mason
TV: BT Sport
Burnley did indeed make Turf Moor their “happy place” last weekend, besting Crystal Palace by a goal to nil. Sean Dyche’s men will be looking now to build on that happiness as they take on a faltering Manchester City side who were Mourinho-ed on their last outing, a 2-0 loss at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
This season hasn’t exactly gone to plan for either of these sides. The hosts are exactly equidistant (in terms of points) from the summit and the relegation zone whilst the visitors sit just a single point above the aforementioned drop zone, although both sides have played a game lesser than the teams around them.
Guardiola’s side look completely devoid of creativity and inspiration, with not enough chances being created to make their regular finishing levels sustainable. We know that City had trouble finishing games off in proportion to the sheer amount of chances they created. However, with clear-cut opportunities at a premium now, the absence of Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane has seriously hurt the club’s start to the season as they sit with a goal difference of -1, having scored just a single goal more than Fulham.
While Burnley were never renowned for their goal-scoring exploits, they are considered a side who keep a very clean chit at the back. That hadn’t worked to fruition till Ben Mee and James Tarkowski were reunited. The pair helped keep back-to-back clean sheets against Brighton and more recently, Crystal Palace.
In particular, they will need to hatch a plan to keep Riyad Mahrez under control; the Algerian has received his fair share of criticism this season from fans and journalists alike, but we know he truly comes alive against Burnley, with four goals in his last three meetings against the Clarets (In just 172 minutes). Keeping him quiet will go some distance towards stopping their bleeding record against the Citizens, with three successive 5-0 scorelines.
The blue half of Manchester has a fully fit squad for the first time this season after Nathan Ake joined training after suffering a hamstring injury whilst away on international duty. Sergio Aguero too has been training for some time now, but Guardiola will need to be extremely careful in managing both players’ return to action, especially the latter who was rushed back to detrimental effect last time.
English goalkeeper Nick Pope looks likely to miss the trip to the Etihad after suffering a head injury last time out. He has been a crucial cog in their system, and his absence will be sorely missed.
Joining him on the treatment table are Jack Cork, Robbie Brady and Dale Stephens. While Jack Cork is back in light training, this weekend comes a bit too soon for him to be involved. Dale Stephens hadn’t rejoined training till last week, and Robbie Brady will be missing due to a hamstring issue. However, Sean Dyche is optimistic that the scans will reveal no major damage, and he will be able to make a quicker recovery than was initially speculated.
Predicted Starting XIs
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; Gundogan, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Aguero, Jesus
Burnley (4-4-2): Peacock-Farrell; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Gudmundsson, Westwood, Brownhill, McNeil; Chris Wood, Rodriguez
Score Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Burnley
I think that despite City’s creative woes this season, they should be geared up enough to force their way through Burnley’s defence, which has been weakened by the absence of Nick Pope.