The VMC Match Preview: MCFC v Sunderland
Stadium of Light
Sunday, 29th August
Four games played, four clean sheets to show for it. City face a tough away-day trip to the Stadium of Light to face the Elephant Man's extremely up-and-down Sunderland side.
"Of course you can lose to anyone at any time in the Premier League because the competition is so fierce but you must minimise those to be successful. Everyone has to step up their level to stay in the starting eleven that is one of the keys."
"There are no games in this league that are not important or that do not have a high intensity. Last year the Champions League fourth place was decided by two points and we just missed out. You cannot at any time let your guard down. Sunderland will present a big challenge and we have to make sure we are ready for it."
'One thing's for sure, we have to play well on the day. We played very well against them last year, we're at home and there will be a big crowd. City had a sticky start against Tottenham but make no mistake, with what's happened to their group of players they will be a huge threat to everyone this season."
'They will need time to adjust and gel, but when you're hand-picking the best players available you're always going to be a threat. I am confident we'll do well; we'll be giving our best shot. Our aim is to play well on the day to get the crowd behind us and make life as difficult as possible for City.'
'They can rotate 6 or 7 players and still bring in top quality internationals. That's what we're up against and the lads are looking forward to it.
'I played against all the top sides with Wigan and no-one ever expected us to win. City can't just come here and stroll away with the three points and we have to prove that point. 'The first game of the season was fantastic. I'm sure the fans will be even better against a big team like Man City and I can't wait.'
Sunderland Team News:
Steve Bruce welcomes back Lee Cattermole and Michael Turner back into the side after competing their relative suspensions. Cattermole`s de Jong-like presence was dearly missed when The Mackem`s succumbed to defeat last week against West Brom. City loanee, Nedum Onouha is unavailable for selection due to loan terms whilst John Mensah will be forced to sit out with a hamstring injury. Craig Gordon is still out with a broken arm.
Possible Sunderland Team:
2) Bardsley - 4) Turner - 19) Bramble - 3) K Richardson
27) Elmohamady - 10) Henderson - 6) Cattermole - 8) Malbranque
11) Bent - 9) Campbell
Player to watch: Darren Bent
Bent is not everyone`s cup of tea or choice of striker but even his worst critics have to appreciate his Premier League goals to games ratio. The hit man has netted three times already this campaign and his acceleration and running in-behind defences will surely cause the likes of Kompany and Toure some problems. However, it is the striker finishing ability Mancini should fear the most as he truly is deadly from in-and-around the box.
Manchester City Team News:
City also have a number of absentees due to injury; Aleksandar Kolarov is out after damaging ankle ligaments and is not expected to return until early October. Jerome Boateng however, could be back in action much earlier after a 'trolly dolly` rammed her equipment into the German`s knee. The defender could make his City debut in less than two weeks after a speedy recovery. Wayne Bridge will be out with a broken toe for about another month whilst Michael Johnson is slowly but surely climbing the steep mountain to regain match fitness.
James Milner is expected to return to action after being ineligible in midweek whilst Mario Balotelli`s fitness will need to be assessed to see if the Italian can take his place on the bench. With all that in mind, I expect Mancini to opt with the same team that took Liverpool to the cleaners almost a week ago:
Possible City Team:
2) Richards - 28) K Toure - 4) Kompany - 19) Lescott
34) de Jong - 18) Barry
7) Milner - 42) Y Toure - 11) A. Johnson
Player to watch: Adam Johnson
Johnson has fond memories of the Stadium of Light after salvaging his side a draw last season with a sublimely curled effort which was correctly named City`s 09/10 goal of the season. In only six months, Johnson has developed his game incredibly; going from a scrawny, raw talent to a menacing wing demon. His ability to go inside then out, using both feet before opting to deliver a cross or fire a shot makes the twenty three year old incredibly difficult to defend against. Surprisingly, Johnson has only scored one goal for the boys in Blue but expect that tally to increase this season.
Match Facts & Stats
City are one of only two Premier League sides yet to concede a goal, along with Chelsea.
Sunderland ended a run of nine successive defeats against Manchester City when they earned a 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light in March.
There has not been a goalless draw between these sides in league football since 1938.
Steve Bruce's side have kept only one clean sheet in their last 12 Premier League fixtures. That was in a 1-0 win at Hull on 24 April.
They won only six league games on their travels last season, compared to 12 at Eastlands.
Vincent Kompany is completely correct, after a promising start to the season the boys need to stay focused, avoid complacency and ensure no cheap points are dropped. Sunderland are a decent side and the likes of Bent and Campbell will pose a threat up front. So far, we`ve kept four clean sheets in four games and this record needs to remain favourable throughout the season if we intend to challenge for the title. Anyway, I expect Mancini to go for the same side that demolished Liverpool. Possibly moving Yaya Toure slightly deeper into midfield. I expect a hard-fought game in which Sunderland will try to break City`s passing triangles. I predict Milner and Johnson to once again be the key down the flanks against two relatively average full backs in Bardsley and Richardson. Match Prediction: Sunderland 0 - 2 MCFC
Saturday, 11th September v Blackburn @ 15:00 (H)
Thursday, 16th September v Red Bull Salzburg. EUROPE @ 19:00 (A)