Etihad tomorrow for toughest of games
We’ve been to Southampton, Fulham, Wolves and Cardiff this season, picking up four points from those games, but our away fixture list takes on a whole new meaning tomorrow with our shortest trip of the season to the Etihad to take on champions Manchester City.
I think it is fair to say they are not too bad a side and only their city rivals Manchester United have recorded a victory over them at the Etihad since Pep Guardiola became manager, and they’ve done that twice, beating them 2-0 in 2016/17 and then coming from two behind to win 3-2 last season.
We went into the international break in a much healthier position than we’d gone into the first one. Then we were sat with just one point from the first four games. In the next batch of games, we lost at Wolves but then picked up seven points from the next three games although, admittedly, four of those points came in games against Cardiff and Huddersfield when we didn’t play particularly well.
If you look at the current Premier League table, Manchester City are top, above both next week’s opponents Chelsea and Liverpool on goal difference, which makes this as difficult a game as we are likely to face all season.
We went there twice last season, coming home with a 3-0 defeat in the league and a 4-1 FA Cup loss although I do think we played much better than those results suggest and in both games we failed to get the rub of the green with decisions.
Even so, this is no impossible task and we’ve avoided defeat against City in half of the Premier League games we’ve played against them, drawing two of four at the Etihad while winning one and drawing one at home, that home draw coming last season courtesy of a Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson equaliser. So, as difficult as it might be, this is not a foregone conclusion, all the bookies seem to think so, and as manager Sean Dyche has said, anything can happen.
We have two former City players returning to play against their old club. It will be a new experience for goalkeeper Joe Hart who was this week recognised for his contribution during his twelve years at the club. One thing for certain is that he’ll get a superb reception from the home fans ahead of the game which we hope inspires him.
It might be a new experience for Hart but certainly it’s nothing new for our skipper Ben Mee who will be playing for us there for the fifth time; he’s even scored a goal for us there in the 2-1 defeat two seasons ago.
Mee admitted: “It’s definitely a fixture I look forward to. I enjoy going there and playing at the Etihad, but I also enjoy them coming here. It’s always an enjoyable experience to play against these top players.”
Referring to last season’s home game against them, he added: “We played really well against them last season and frustrated them and got our reward with a point. and at their place we didn’t give them the easiest of rides. We held our own for long periods, both in the cup and the league, and I’m sure we can stick together and try and get something.”
Mee is one of five ever presents in the Premier League this season, alongside goalkeeper Hart, defensive partner James Tarkowski, midfielder Jack Cork and winger Aaron Lennon, and I expect all five of them to start tomorrow, providing Tarkowski has recovered from the injury that forced him to withdraw from the recent England squad.
But who will join them? Steven Defour will be the name on everyone’s lips. He played at Burton and was on the bench at Cardiff before missing the Huddersfield game prior to the sad loss of his dad. Will Sean Dyche bring him back into the starting eleven?
I’ve no idea what decision he’ll make but I’d like to see us line up: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Steven Defour, Jack Cork, Aaron Lennon, Jeff Hendrick, Sam Vokes. Subs from: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil, Matěj Vydra, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood.
If we have a decision to make on a Belgian midfielder, then so do City with Kevin de Bruyne fit again. Pep Guardiola has suggested he’ll play a part in tomorrow’s game although he seemed to reluctant when asked if he would start. When asked if De Bruyne was fit, Guardiola said: “Yes. I don’t know if he is able to play ninety minutes. He trained the last two weeks. He has no pain and is ready o be part of the group.
“He is such an important player for us. Whenever a player is out, I like when they come back because the stronger we will be. Kevin, there is no doubt how important he is for us.”
Fabian Delph is also available again but they will be without Ilkay Gündogan who remains out with a hamstring injury.
There’s no doubt City look an even better team with him, and when he’s in the midfield alongside the brilliant David Silva then it really does take them to another level.
So far this season, they have won six and drawn two of their eight games. That’s an outstanding start to the season but so good were they in 2017/18 that it was New Year’s Eve before they’d dropped four league points.
Huddersfield, incredibly, were the last team to take a point from the Etihad close to the end of last season. Somehow they kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw. This season they’ve scored thirteen times and conceded just twice in four wins at home. Add that to eight away goals and just one conceded, it shows what a tough game we are facing.
Incredibly Huddersfield and Newcastle are the two teams to have scored there, although Huddersfield went on to concede six. Wolves are the only team to score against them on their own ground. That came in a 1-1 draw with City’s other points dropped coming in their last game which ended 0-0 at Liverpool.
The City team for that game was: Ederson, Fernandinho, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Benjamin Mendy, Aymeric Laporte, David Silva, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, Sergio Agüero, Raheem Sterling. Subs: Arijanet Muric, Vincent Kompany, Nicolás Otamendi, Danilo, Leroy Sané, Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus.
LAST TIME WE WERE THERE
Our league game at Manchester City last season was played on the very same weekend, on Saturday 21st October to be exact. When the fixtures were published for last season, I doubt many would have thought we’d go there unbeaten on the road given that the four away games prior to this one were at Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool and Everton.
We lost the game 3-0 and I don’t think there is a fair argument to suggest we deserved anything from it, but the scoreline doesn’t really tell the story of the game. With just 17 minutes remaining we were only 1-0 down and that to a penalty that was hotly disputed when Nick Pope supposedly brought down Bernardo Silva. Nothing will ever convince me that this was anything other than a dive but Roger East incredibly pointed to the spot from which Sergio Agüero scored.
It wasn’t to be, but we did go and win our next two away games in what was a superb start to the season.
The teams were;
Manchester City: Ederson, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Nicolás Otamendi, Fabian Delph, Kevin de Bruyne (Ilkay Gündogan 80), Fernandinho (Yana Touré 78), Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Sergio Agüero (Gabriel Jesus 76), Leroy Sané. Subs not used: Claudio Bravo, Danilo, Eliaquim Mangala, Raheem Sterling.
Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Robbie Brady, Steven Defour (Ashley Westwood 84), Jack Cork, Scott Arfield, Jeff Hendrick (Johann Berg Gudmundsson 71), Chris Wood (Ashley Barnes 20). Subs not used: Anders Lindegaard, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor.Share this page :