Manchester City vs Leeds United
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Referee: Andre Marriner
TV: BT Sport
Manchester City welcome Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United to the Etihad Stadium, days after they clinched a first-leg victory in the Champions League quarter-final on the back of a 90th minute Phil Foden winner. The Cityzens will be looking to move one step closer to officially confirming Premier League glory, needing a maximum of 10 points to secure their third league title in the last four years, thanks to their superior goal difference.
Marcelo Bielsa has led his side to a mid-table presence in their first season after returning to the top flight, which is a very respectable spot. However, he’ll be keen to improve and possibly usurp the likes of Arsenal, or maybe even Aston Villa in the eight fixtures that remain. Every spot moved up will add further revenue to the club, who look to bounce back from the £62 million operating loss due to COVID-19.
The last time these two sides met marked the debut of star centre-half and City’s frontrunner for the PFA Player of the Year award, Ruben Dias. City were held to a 1-1 draw away at Elland Road in an extremely end-to-end game which saw both sets of goalkeepers excel; however, the tide has turned since then, with Dias now firmly settled in the heart of City’s defence, even though he did have a slightly shaky outing midweek against Haaland and Co, and City marching to 28 wins from their last 29 games on record. Pep will be hungry to extend that statistic even further, even if his opposing counterpart is his mentor.
Pep Guardiola can boast a completely injury-free squad to call upon for this game. Although club legend and record-goalscorer Sergio Aguero did confirm his intention to move on to a different challenge at the end of this league season, City were able to tie down their most prized possession in Kevin De Bruyne to a new contract just this week.
Morale will be high in the City camp, given their current win streak as well as the midweek CL win over Dortmund, and with Guardiola’s side looking to fight across all competitions, tactical sharpness and rotation will be key. For instance, even City’s titan Ruben Dias had a rather loose outing against Bellingham and Haaland, and will likely be rested over the weekend.
Winger Jack Harrison will be unavailable for selection on Saturday, as he’s on loan from Manchester City, and hence ineligible to face his parent club.
Adam Forshaw is a doubt in midfield with a pelvic injury, but other than that, Marcelo Bielsa has a fully fit squad available to choose from. Rodrigo, Pablo Hernandez (both previously ailing from muscle strains) and Robin Koch (knee) were all included in the squad for last week’s home win against Sheffield United. Gaetano Berardi (knee) is also available for selection.
Predicted Starting XIs
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Cancelo, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko; Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Bernardo; Sterling, Aguero, Jesus
Leeds United (4-5-1): Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Cooper, Dallas; Raphinha, Roberts, Phillips, Klitch, Costa; Bamford
Predicted Scoreline: Manchester City 2-0 Leeds United
Manchester City go into the game with the form advantage, as well as the incentive advantage, to add on their superior squad. I expect Leeds to be set up pragmatism-first, but yet offer a fair amount of threat in attack, meaning that City’s defence will be forced to be on their toes. It was the attacking department that led Pep’s men down when the teams last clashed in October, and I personally feel Sergio Aguero might be called into the starting lineup to add some firepower going forward. It should be a City win on Saturday afternoon.