Manchester City v Burnley - Match Preview
After professionally negotiating a difficult midweek encounter against the best that Serie A currently has to offer, the next visitors to rock up at the Etihad stadium this weekend are Sean Dyche`s Burnley.
Make no mistake this is a fixture not to be taken lightly and consideration of resting too many of the currently excellently performing first picks for the City team ought to be far from Pep`s thoughts. If he has leant anything from his inaugural season in the Premier League or from studying Burnley`s performances this time round it is that there are no 'Gimme`s` in the Premier League. Never underestimate the opposition.
Currently lying in 8th place in the league, Burnley have so far inflicted an opening day defeat the 2016/17 champions and have drawn against both Spurs and Liverpool away from home. Indeed they have yet to suffer a defeat on the road and have shown that they can prove difficult opponents and are undefeated in the league since mid August. In fact their only defeat in that period was in the EFL Cup to Leeds United and then it was on penalties.
Wholesale changes can be left for the League Cup in next week. Let`s keep the momentum going.
With the pundits and Stoke City players still reeling from the events at the Etihad last weekend where Pep`s men simply blew their opponents away, most City fans will have spent the past few days going about their daily affairs with a spring in their step. The football that we have been witnessing has been nothing short of breathtaking and Pep could rightly be feeling somewhat vindicated at sticking to his footballing principles especially in the face of the constant reminders of his failure to win a trophy in his first season as a coach at a new club.
The work he has been putting in on the training ground and throughout his contact with the players has left a distinct hallmark of quality & belief - individual & collective - on the whole squad. He has created a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts with the players buying into the system that when a goal is scored EVERYONE gets to feel they have played their part. This has paid dividends in the goal tally City have been racking up but remains a work in progress with signs that at times some are still willing to ignore the better placed team mate and try for goal themselves - something we witnessed even against Napoli in midweek. I am sure that this will not have been missed by our coach.
Results against Burnley in recent seasons have been tight. City have won last season`s two encounters by a single goal margin and prior to that suffered a 1-0 reverse away from home and a 2-2 draw under Pellegrini in his last year in charge. Dyche know how to organise his team and will make sure that they arrive well drilled and trying to close the spaces that have been so magnificently exploited by the incredible Kevin De Bruyne. The key to this game - once again - will be starting at a high tempo and getting that all important early goal to affect the game plan of the opposition and prevent them sitting too deep. Succeed in that aim and we could once again see the boys in Sky Blue continuing their superb record of scoring at least 4 goals in their last 3 matches.
The City players have all been outstanding this season and there is not time to list each and every one of them but at this point in the season I will mention two who deserve (IMO) massive credit but whose improvement has been somewhat overlooked - John Stones and Raheem Sterling. Both of these young men arrived at City with huge transfer tags around their necks (not their fault), with the approbation of all and sundry about whether they were 'worth the money` and then having to deal with the trashing of either their ability and/or their personal life. Both have shown immense professionalism in how they have responded to the situation they faced - they have knuckled down, gotten on with their jobs and listened to their coach who has helped them to restore their self-belief. Through this encouragement they are now showing why they were rated so highly before their transfer to Manchester City seemed to generate automatic question marks and an almost unrelenting stream of criticism. I for one am hugely pleased to see them stuff the words of the pundits, doubters and nay-sayers right back down their throats.
Another test awaits Pep and his men and there is no tome to relax or take the foot off the gas. City have been delivering a footballing masterclass in recent weeks and, having set the bar high, need to concentrate, not take the Clarets lightly and deliver yet another masterclass on Saturday.
Oh by the way - its another 3pm kick off this Saturday.
I bet the people who decided to put City`s league outings on tv only twice during October and November are currently explaining to the Executives at Sky and BT Sport who are asking why they are giving the rags, Liverpool and West Ham United five outings each during the same period rather than the team providing some of the most exciting football seen in the Premier League`s history.
If they want entertainment and goals their cameras are very likely to be in the wrong places based on what we have seen so far this season.
Come on City!!!
*Stats courtesy of Transfermarkt.com
Opponent to watch
Chris Wood - the forward from New Zealand cost Burnley something in the region of £15m and has netted 3 times in 6 appearances. He scored the equaliser in added time to secure Burnley a point against Spurs. He will need watching.
Referee - Stuart Attwell
Assistants - Edward Smart; Mick McDonough
Fourth Official - Mike Dean
Stats** (Premier League) comparison:-
Goals per game - 3.6
Avg Possesion - 64.9%
Pass Accuracy - 89%
Shots per game - 19.4
Discipline - 14Y, 2R
Goals per game - 1
Avg Possesion - 45.6%
Pass Accuracy - 72.1%
Shots per game - 13.4
Discipline - 14Y, 0R
**Stats courtesy of Whoscored.com
City are without Mendy and Vincent Kompany (who may be starting to wonder if he will get back into the side).
Burnley will be missing Tom Heaton, Dean Marney and John Walters.
Potential starting XI, subs & formation
Danilo, Stones, Otamendi, Delph
De Bruyne, Gundogan, Silva B
Sterling, Aguero, Diaz
Bravo, Mangala, Walker, Toure, Silva D, Fernandinho, Jesus