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Manchester City vs Watford: 09/03/2019 – match preview and predicted starting XIs

Manchester City vs Watford

Date: 09/03/2019

K/O: 17:30

Venue: Etihad Stadium

Referee: Paul Tierney

Off the back of two unimpressive wins against West Ham United and Bournemouth, the Sky Blues welcome an in-form Watford to the Etihad.

As Premier League play continues, the pressure is on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, as they reclaimed the top spot in the League table with their 1-0 win last weekend at the Vitality Stadium against Bournemouth.

With nine games remaining, a single point separates the Sky Blues from Liverpool, and three points on Saturday will be crucial to their success. Over the last two weeks, City have fired 43 goal attempts, 13 of which have been on target but have resulted in just two goals. Is the offence stalling or are they doing just enough to scrap out the necessary wins?

Anything less than being Premier League champions will be disappointing for the Citizens, according to Guardiola from his pre-match press conference. “We want the league and we will be disappointed if that does not happen but we cannot forget the contender we face with Liverpool. Of course, we want to win the Premier League and I feel the players show me every single day they want to win it. We play in four competitions and we are still there. That’s why I’m so happy.”

Watford didn’t play well two weeks ago, visiting Anfield, as Liverpool boasted a 5-0 final score. City have the talent to equal the feat, but the reverse fixture saw goals on both sides of the break, as City rolled to a 2-1 victory.

Watford have lost just once in their last five games, the 5-0 thumping at Anfield. The Hornets rebounded confidently last week, as Javi Gracia’s lads face the league leaders on Saturday, “I think it’s good for us to have this position, but the feelings I can see in my players, all of them want more and more, they are ambitious. It’s not easy after working a long time to keep that ambition and atmosphere we have at the moment,” said Gracia.

All the pressure rests on Man City, as Watford, currently 8th in the league, are secure, while the Sky Blues continue to look over their shoulder at Liverpool and remain in the FA Cup and Champions League; two competitions that will serve up curveballs for City to dispatch or dodge in their bid for domestic and European glory.

Manchester City

Guardiola received bad news, as Kevin De Bruyne picked up a muscular problem (hamstring) and has been ruled out ahead of the match.

Fernandinho has missed the last two games and won’t be available ahead of Watford, as he looks to return after the upcoming international break. Defensively, it’s been patchwork in front of Ederson. Aymeric Laporte (thigh) and John Stones (muscle injury) are currently being assessed and are unlikely to feature this weekend.

The unavailability of De Bruyne could see the reemergence of Leroy Sane, who hasn’t featured in three out of the last five games. Off a goal at Bournemouth, Riyad Mahrez continues to tick on when called upon, scoring six goals for the season. Up front, Gabriel Jesus has returned to fitness and made a late cameo appearance. Sergio Aguero has put in 80’+ minutes the last two games, as well as playing 120 in the League Cup final. Against Watford, Jesus could be in line for a start, as City host Schalke in the Champions League midweek.

It appears Guardiola has found a new left-back, with the injuries to Benjamin Mendy and now Aymeric Laporte. Oleksandr Zinchenko has started the last three games, while picking up two assists and three clean sheets.

“Zinchenko is definitely important to us. Oleks was committed, smart, intelligent and he understands everything – he has incredible quality,” said Guardiola, after their win last Saturday. Injuries have seen Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany feature in the back line, which has been tough to crack as Ederson and Kompany have posted four clean sheets in the last four games.


Javi Gracia could arrive at the Eithad Stadium with no injuries. Currently, Kiko Femenia is flagged for illness, but could on the bench when the Golden Boys kick off against City.

The starting XI is very settled at the moment, as Gracia has shown confidence in his starters, while continuing to promote the importance of captain, Troy Deeney. After the win Saturday, Javi said, “I think everybody knows how important Troy is for us. On and off the pitch, his personality, ambition and character for the game and out of the game as well.”

While Ben Foster has been the player of the season since signing during the offseason, the defence has been near the bottom of the league in conceding goal attempts and shots on target.

Journeyman, Adrian Mariappa, struggled with Jamie Vardy at times, losing the forward on Leicester City’s goal. Partnered with Craig Cathcart, the central pairing have struggled the last two weeks. Jose Holebas returned to the starting XI and looked strong against Leicester.

The Hornets have been led by captain, Troy Deeney, currently in form, playing some of his best football of the season. He leads all Watford players with eight goals on the season and his importance to the Hornets cannot be understated. “We’ve shown character, I think that’s never in question now. It’s just about continuing to be consistent and trying to win more and more football matches,” said Deeney after last weeks game.

Their shots on target (30) are only bettered by Everton over the last four weeks, but the Hornets have scored eight goals bettered by Arsenal, Manchester United and Crystal Palace. Andre Gray looks to be playing his way back into a starting role, but right now, Gracia has him penned as an impact substitute.

Predicted Starting XIs

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Zinchenko, Otamendi, Kompany, Walker; D. Silva, Gundogan, B. Silva; Sane, Aguero, Sterling.

Watford (4-2-2-2): Foster; Holebas, Cathcart, Mariappa, Janmaat; Capoue; Doucoure; Pereyra, Hughes; Deeney, Deulofeu.

Prediction: Manchester City 2 Watford 1

City haven’t been overly impressive in their last two games, as questions surround which Watford team will arrive at the Etihad. Will it be the team that lost 5-0 to Liverpool or the one that shut down Leicester City last week? Defensively, the Hornets have their hands full with a powerful attack. Watford continue to struggle with Cathcart and Mariappa, and therefore Saturday could be a good day for Aguero.

Stephen Toumi

Watford supporter! #FPL ID#446 | Vegan | Craft beer enthusiast, homebrewer #FPLBeerClub | #30SecondBeerReview Host of Pitch & Pint Pod #pitchpintpod

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