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man-city2-1000x500We’ve won at Chelsea and Everton while drawing at both Tottenham and Liverpool in the first four away games of the season and now it’s off to the Etihad Stadium to face current Premier League leaders Manchester City.

As tough games go, it can’t get much tougher against a City side who have scored 29 goals in their opening eight league games while conceding only four. They’ve dropped just two points, those in a 1-1 home draw against Everton.

It’s really been a joy watching our away games this season. Not as though it wasn’t last season but the lack of points and certainly the lack of wins did make it more difficult at times until we started to get things together on the road, in terms of performances, just before Christmas.

This season has been incredible so far but tomorrow’s game really is on another planet compared to the others and that’s given that we’ve already played the two sides who ended last season in first and second places.

For games on the road, players such as Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick seem to be reserving their best performances and while that might not be the case for Belgian midfielder Steven Defour, he’s a player who has stepped up and improved his performances last season, particularly away from home where, at times, he really disappointed in 2016/17.

Not only is Defour now playing regularly, he’s even playing the full game more often than not when last season he didn’t complete one Premier League game home or away. It’s not even noticed now.

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He’s up against one of his good mates in Kevin de Bruyne tomorrow and he said ahead of the game: “It’s that kind of game you want to play. It’s why you play football, even though you know it’s going to be difficult.

“You want to play against them and it’s going to be a great game. We can all agree that they are the favourites and they are playing at home.”

He added: “We know it will be very tough but we also know we are in good shape, especially away from home. Even though Manchester City are playing very well at the moment and scoring a lot of goals, I think with Burnley’s away form and with our discipline we can maybe get something.”

Defour really has been a plus this season, but he’s not the only one. His partnership with Jack Cork in the centre of the pitch has been a key factor and they are surely going to line up there again tomorrow.

We know we are without long term injury victims Tom Heaton and Dean Marney while Jon Walters will be out of the reckoning for some time yet. Although he got through ninety minutes during the week in a behind closed doors game, Nahki Wells isn’t ready yet according to Sean Dyche.

That leaves us with the same squad as last week and I suspect there won’t be any changes to the starting eleven. Johann Berg Gudmundsson had a major influence on the second half having come on as a substitute but he may need to do that again with Scott Arfield expected to retain his place.

We should line up: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Robbie Brady, Steven Defour, Jack Cork, Scott Arfield, Jeff Hendrick, Chris Wood. Subs from: Anders Lindegaard, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor, Ashley Westwood, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes.

It will be a special day tomorrow for Ben Mee. In October last season, Tom Heaton captained Burnley at Old Trafford against his former club Manchester United and more than played his part in securing a point in a 0-0 draw. Tomorrow is Ben’s turn as he captains us against his former club Manchester City.

As for City, I’m not sure what I can write about them but I can start by suggesting that they must be clear favourites to win this season’s Premier League.

What an incredible start they’ve made. At home they’ve won three and drawn that one game against Everton; away from home they’ve not dropped a point, winning all four games. It’s not as though they are just winning either. Both Liverpool and Crystal Palace have been beaten 5-0, Watford went down 6-0 on their own ground, and last week they hit seven against Stoke, winning the game 7-2.

Since drawing their opening league game against Everton, they’ve scored 17 goals in the three league games since at the Etihad. They’ve already had ten different players score league goals this season with all of Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling scoring six. Leroy Sané is not too far behind with four.

Who will play for City? Benjamin Mendy won’t; he’s a long term injury victim while Pep Guardiola has confirmed that Vincent Kompany won’t be fit enough to play this weekend. Playing against City without Kompany used to be a real bonus; I’m not so sure of that now. They do have Aguero fit again and he could well start in the Premier League for the first time since he was involved in that taxi crash in the Netherlands.

Last time out in the league, that 7-2 win against Stoke, their team was: Ederson, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi, Fabian Delph, Kevin de Bruyne, Fernandinho, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sané. Subs: Claudio Bravo, Danilo, Ilkay Gündogan, Sergio Aguero, Eliaquim Mangala, Bernardo Silva, Yaya Touré.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

Burnley kicked off 2017 at the Etihad on the 2nd January after our two Christmas home wins against Middlesbrough and Sunderland had lifted us from 16th to 11th in the table. We were on the continued search for an away win; the first eight away games of the season had yielded just the one point at Old Trafford against Manchester United.

We chatted with a few City fans ahead of the game and it was astonishing to hear how negative they were about the side, very much with their jury out on Guardiola and certainly not impressed with Sergio Aguero. They did speak very warmly about Joey Barton with news breaking that day that he’d signed for us and was serving his one match ban.

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There was no score for half and hour and then we thought we’d got ourselves a lift when Fernandinho was sent off for a poor challenge on Johann Berg Gudmundsson. It remained at 0-0 at half time and that forced Guardiola’s hand; he brought on both David Silva and Aguero.

It took them almost an hour to get in front but once Gael Clichy had given them the lead they were soon 2-0 up with a sensation goal from Aguero. From the tightest of angles and with two defenders on the line, I’m still unsure just how he managed to score.

We gave it a real go and Ben Mee pulled one back, courtesy of goal line technology, but the closest we came to a leveller was when Michael Keane saw Claudio Bravo save his stoppage time effort. It ended 2-1 and we were still looking for our first away win.

The teams were;

Manchester City: Claudio Bravo, Bacary Sagna, Nicolas Otamendi, Aleksandar Kolarov, Gael Clichy, Fernandinho, Yaya Touré, Jesus Navas (David Silva ht), Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling (John Stones 89), Kelechi Iheanacho (Sergio Aguero ht). Subs not used: Willy Caballero, Pablo Zabaleta, Aleix Garcia, Nolito.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Jeff Hendrick, Scott Arfield (Patrick Bamford 88), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Steven Defour 59), Ashley Barnes (Sam Vokes 69), Andre Gray. Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Aiden O’Neill.

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