In the wake of a dominant yet slightly blunt performance against West Ham United, Manchester City will travel down to the south coast on Saturday afternoon with keen memories of what it takes to challenge for the Premier League title with a testing away fixture against AFC Bournemouth.
Despite completely suffocating a stubborn West Ham side on Wednesday night, Pep Guardiola’s Blues will know that clinical finishing will be key if they hope to pick off Eddie Howe’s Cherries. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say my heart can’t take a repeat of what happened there last season.
To flashback, in City’s third game of their eventual Centurions campaign, the Blues were in need of a win after picking up four points from their opening two games. But, of course, we conceded one of the goals of the season on 20 minutes from Charlie Daniels in typical City fashion. We hit back quickly when Gabriel Jesus linked well with David Silva, but City’s stars seemed to run out of ideas and as the clock ticked past the 96th minute of 97 added on, the team were set to drop valuable points once again. But then, arise Raheem Sterling, who bundled in what turned out to be just one of a smear of vital goals the Englishman would score for us throughout the season, sending us on a record-breaking 18 game winning run.
City simply cannot afford a repeat in today’s fixture. There’s more than enough potential for a tough fixture, with Bournemouth already picking up an amazing 4-0 result against Chelsea and giving other top sides a good run for their money. However, they do have the potential to collapse like they did in their 5-1 loss at Arsenal in midweek. The Blues will need to be clinical and pounce on any mistakes.
Pep Guardiola confirmed in his press conference that Gabriel Jesus and John Stones are back available for selection but confirmed fears with the news that we won’t be seeing Aymeric Laporte or Fernandinho until after the international break following their respective injuries in the Carabao Cup final.
City Xtra Line-up Prediction:
The trusty Ederson, fresh off of a quiet Wednesday night barring a brilliant save from Andy Carroll, will adopt his usual position between the sticks (or on the halfway line where he usually is).
Kyle Walker was rested after 120 minutes in the Carabao Cup final for Danilo in midweek, who despite his excellent performance will be replaced by the Englishman this weekend. Captain fantastic Vincent Kompany was his assured self in midweek and will retain his place alongside John Stones, who is back, and will give Otamendi a break from action. Oleksandr Zinchenko has got to be one of the first names on the team sheet with his recent performances and despite Benjamin Mendy’s return to the bench against the Hammers, I really hope the Ukranian is given the run in the team he deserves.
Pep confirmed after City’s win that holding midfield is Ilkay Gundogan’s natural position, so I’d imagine he will be the one to anchor the City ship on the south coast. Bernardo Silva should be given the opportunity to continue his blistering form with a start at the Vitality. I think he’ll partner David Silva in midfield, who really needs to recapture his early season form if a title challenge is to be sustained.
Leroy Sane will surely be given the opportunity to find his stunning form from previous games, especially given the lesser opposition. Despite coming off the bench on Wednesday, Raheem Sterling firmly upstaged Riyad Mahrez on a rare start for the Algerian; Sterling registered just as many shots in his 3o minute cameo as Mahrez and Sané combined. The Player of the Year contender is a sure choice to start on the left flank, especially after last season’s heroics against Bournemouth. Finally, with Pep confirming he’s available for selection, Gabriel Jesus will surely start to give Premier League top scorer Sergio Agüero a much-deserved rest.
City Bench: Aro Muric, Benjamin Mendy, Nicolas Otamendi, Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Sergio Agüero.
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